Are you of Acadian decent?
Sonia: Partly! My grandmother is a Dugas from up Caraquet way. Natalie is a Poitras. We went to the Caraquet Acadian gathering before, so for this year we enhanced our costumes. We went a little bit further. You can’t see it right now but we light up. It’s going to look great tonight.
What are you most excited for during the CMA?
Natalie: We love the jigging. We love to dance. There’s so much dancing to be done.
What, to you, symbolizes the Acadian people?
Sonia: Friendliness. Happiness. Finally, we can enjoy life, together. We’re a big family. And fricot, the chicken stew. With ployes. We can’t get enough of it.
Had either of you been to this part of the world before? How is it different from other Acadian communities across the world?
Chris: It’s beautiful country. But you know, you see an Acadian person, and you say “Oh, that looks like Uncle Joe,” and that’s whether you’re in Louisiana or Madawaska. You can tell the connection. Acadian French is the closest to Cajun French I’ve heard.
Donald: And the weather. It was 95 degrees where we come from. 72 is a lot more comfortable. But people are really just the same people. Just as friendly, just as loving, just as caring. That is something that doesn’t change.
What, to you, symbolizes the Acadian people?
Chris: Joie de vivre. The joy of living. I had read that in the late 1600s William Shand, who came to Acadia, went back to England and told them there that despite the hard life and the hardships of the Acadian people, these are probably the happiest people on the face of the earth. And we still have that.
What’s your favorite Acadian dish?
Donald: I’d say crawfish etoufee, but you don’t get too much crawfish up here. You have lobsters, though, which are crawfish on steroids.
What’s the one CMA event you’re most excited for?
I’m most excited about the Tintamarre. Everybody is happy. I love that. I like that everybody gets to make a lot of noise.
When you found out that this year the CMA would be in Maine and New Brunswick, how did that make you feel?
It’s a good party, that’s for sure. I love that. This is my first time going to a Congress and so far it’s been a lot of fun. We’re really happy that it’s here. I’ll be here for the whole thing. I want to see as much as I can.
What, to you, symbolizes Acadia?
Stew. Chicken stew and ployes. That is the most Acadian food there is.
What are some of the similarities between Louisiana and the St. John Valley?
Ben: I think the biggest similarity is, of course, the people. We’re all very friendly. Of course, we have the tie with the Acadian history and the deportation. But some differences, of course, are the terrain and the climate. Very different, obviously.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve seen so far?
Ben: Well, we’ve been here since Wednesday, so we’ve seen a lot already. We just got back from Grand Falls, New Brunswick, which was a really neat community. We did a signing of an accord between New Brunswick and Louisiana. I also thought the lake was really beautiful. Long Lake. This is my first Congress, so I’m looking forward to hearing the music tonight.
What symbolizes the Acadian people to you?
Ben: I would say the music would be the biggest thing. There’s a tie with the music. And the people. The last names and the friendliness and the fact that everyone seems to be so proud of their heritage.
Have you been to a Congress or an Acadian gathering before?
Julie: I’ve never been to a Congress, but I have been to the Acadian Festival in Fort Kent. And family reunions. That’s an Acadian festival on its own!
What’s the best part of going to festivals like this?
Sharon: What I really love is running into people you know. And, also, meeting people you’ve never met before. And the fact that you’re all somehow related or connected just by being Acadian. And the music. I love the music.
What are you most looking forward to during the Congress?
Sharon: I can’t wait to meet all the Daigles. I want to meet the Daigles from Louisiana or from France. The Daigle family reunion is on Saturday [the 16th] so I’m really looking forward to that.
Julie: The family reunions, and the music. Like, nonstop music. It’s awesome. I can’t wait to see La Recolte. Most of the musicians I don’t know. There are some local ones, but there are so many that I’m not familiar with that it’s really refreshing and interesting.
What symbolizes Acadia to you?
Sharon: It’s knowing that we’re all connected. Everyone here is Acadian, or wants to be a part of what this is all about. That’s a great feeling.
Have you been to anything else in the Congress so far?
Beth: Well, not specifically the Congress, but I did go to the Fort Kent Muskie Derby, and we saw the biggest fish. 43 and a half inches long. And I got this awesome Acadian festival hat. So this is the first even that’s actually part of the festival.
What else do you plan to do during the festival?
Beth: I’m not quite sure what else yet! There’s so much. I catered an event here for the Gauvin family reunion. There’s also the DuBois reunion, which also encompasses the Gagner family. I’ve lived in Portage for 26 years and I know a lot of them.
What’s the best part of this event, for you?
Beth: I love that everyone has come together for this. A lot of people are talking about their heritage, whereas before they might not have thought about it. There’s a lot of “Oh, I’m related to this person!” and figuring out all those connections. There’s a lot of handshakes and hugs. The camaraderie is amazing. This is a big event for us. People have really worked hard to make this a great event, and we know we can keep it going beyond this year. I think you’ll see people get on board with more reunions and events and make it a part of their summer every year.