Guy Gallant, president of the festival organizing committee, gave full credit to the volunteers and participants for making it a great weekend, but underlined it all with praise for the weather.
“It was sunny for three days. What else can you ask for,” he joked.
“There were great crowds, great competitions. The agricultural part of the exhibition was another success.”
He based that on the volume of entries into the various competition categories and the number of people attending the showings and viewing the exhibits.
Agriculture is in decline, at least for the small-scale operations, and mechanization has a major influence, but the enthusiasm still seemed to be present.
During an earlier interview, Gallant was advised that other regional agricultural events have noted a distinct decrease in events like horse pulls and agricultural demonstrations. The fact that the Evangeline Exhibition is doing well is a positive sign.
“I think it says that the industry is vibrant, that there are still young farmers around and people have a sense of tradition. This has a special place in peoples’ heart,” he said.
The 4H organization continues to contribute significantly to the event, which Gallant applauded.
“It’s encouraging to see these young people take the reins. The 4H members also had a woodsman competition, which was very good.”
There was also an “Aspiring Farmer” competition as part of this year’s events, including such hay bale management, grain-bag hoisting, competing in farming trivia, and downing a glass of farm-fresh-style, 3.25 per cent milk to finish off.
“It was more ‘wanna-be farmers,’” Gallant admitted, but added it showed that people are still interested in the industry.
Other events included the traditional Boot Toss, Cow Bingo, miniature-horse presentations, inflatable structures for the kids, lobster suppers, a blessing of the boats at the Egmont Bay wharf and home-maker displays that were snapped up in moments when they went on sale after judging.
The Acadian Festival, which celebrates and promotes the regional culture that has been two centuries in the making, added a variety of music, song, dancing and food to the weekend. The iconic characters, Gabriel and Evangeline, were also available to greet visitors and inspire the pride of Acadia.
19-year-old Caleigh Burhoe, of Belfast, provided a strong vocal solo during the provincial final of the Youth Talent Contest, one of the first events of the festival. She earned the right to attend the national final in Winnipeg, sponsored by P.E.I. Mutual Insurance. Second place went to Allanna Lee and Shelby Lynn Dalziel, of Cornwall, for their dance routine, while Hailey MacIsaac of Albany placed third.
The stage shows drew varying audiences, but Gallant noted that the Sunday afternoon performance was packed, and additional chairs were being added to the rink surface area in the evening as the final gala got underway.
Nostalgia was the order of opening of the event, as players reminded the audience of the glories of Panou and Acadilac, as well as providing a song circle of contemporary players.
Part of the gala was the announcement of the Acadian youth-of-the-year and the Acadian-of-the-year.
Youth of the year, Taylor Arsenault of Tyne Valley, was chosen for his demonstration of responsibility, his dynamism and an attitude that naturally attracts the company of others. He was also praised for showing great respect for youth and encouraging them to respect each other.
Arsenault, unfortunately, was not available to claim his award at the ceremony, having left recently for Victoria, B.C., where he will be attending Pearson University to finish his secondary schooling and earn a Bachelor of International Studies, the only candidate from P.E.I. to be selected this year.
The Acadian of the year was awarded to Aldine Richard of St.-Raphael, on the basis of her great heart and devotion to both parish and community, in addition to excellence in household efforts of gardening, knitting, woodcrafts and enhancing her yard with flowers.
She has been involved in many community organizations, and provided plenty of fodder for local theatre. She is currently president of Mont Carmel’s Seniors’ Club, initiating a generational-gap theatre performance with youth from the community as one if their projects, and also spends many hours improving the parish cemetery.
Richard admitted that she has never been one to look for accolades, and prefers to work alone, through whatever hours are necessary, but she thanked whoever nominated her, or voted for her, to receive the honour.
She was presented a framed image of herself, overlain on an Acadian flag, in recognition of the 2012 award. She told the audience she had no idea where they got the image, but decided it was at least a reasonable likeness.
“C’est pas trop pire, (It’s not too bad),” she told the audience.