A soiree spec­ta­cle

Mar­quee event of Cupids 400 cel­e­bra­tions draws thou­sands

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY TERRY ROBERTS

Or­ga­niz­ers of what was billed the cul­tural and tourism event of the year in this prov­ince were glow­ing Fri­day as the Cupids Cove Soiree en­tered its fi­nal week­end, with many thou­sands of vis­i­tors al­ready hav­ing passed through the his­toric com­mu­nity.

“ It’s gone very well to date,” said Mike Buist, events man­ager with Cupids 400 Inc., the en­tity over­see­ing cel­e­bra­tions mak­ing the 400th an­niver­sary of the es­tab­lish­ment of the first English set­tle­ment in Canada.

The soiree started with a bang on Tues­day, Aug. 17, with some es­ti­mates putting the crowd at be­tween 5,000 and 7,000 for the open­ing cer­e­monies. And the mo­men­tum car­ried through­out the week as sim­i­lar crowds were drawn by the bus­load daily to take in the first-rate en­ter­tain­ment and soak up the at­mos­phere in a place now dubbed the birthplace of English Canada.

Buist es­ti­mated that some 5,500 vis­i­tors took in Thurs­day’s line-up of events, which in­cluded, among other things, a Shake­speare play, craft sales, chil­dren’s events, dancers and sto­ry­tellers, din­ner the­atre and a cir­cus. There was also some first-rate en­ter­tain­ment at Pointe Beach, with Amy House, Berni Sta­ple­ton, John Shee­han and the Master­less Men wow­ing the crowd.

“ We’re very pleased to date with how things have gone,” Buist said. “It ap­pears the pub­lic has re­sponded well and are at­tend­ing the events.”

Head­ing into the week­end, Buist said or­ga­niz­ers were cross­ing their fin­gers for good weather.

Last week’s events were the high­point of cel­e­bra­tions that be­gan last Novem­ber, and con­tin­ues well into the fall. The cel­e­bra­tions were made pos­si­ble by the con­tri­bu­tions of mil­lions of dol­lars from both the fed­eral and pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments, and in­clude the con­struc­tion of a new $5.3 mil­lion Legacy Cen­tre in the com­mu­nity.

Dig­ni­taries who at­tended last week’s of­fi­cial open­ing of the Legacy Cen­tre and soiree were ea­ger to point out the long-term ben­e­fits of this his­toric mile­stone.

“ What an in­cred­i­ble fu­ture we have here in Cupids to cre­ate new eco­nomic devel­op­ment based on a his­tory rich in fas­ci­nat­ing sto­ries of early set­tle­ment in the new world,” said Tourism and Cul­ture Min­is­ter Terry French.

Premier Danny Wil­liams added that “we have taken ac­tion to se­cure our place in his­tory.”

The pub­lic’s ap­pre­ci­a­tion and un­der­stand­ing of the at­tempts by John Guy and his band of early English set­tlers to es­tab­lish a foothold in this part of the world four cen­turies has grown tremen­dously, added Wil­liams.

“ This is one of the most im­por­tant oc­ca­sions in our long and won­der­ful his­tory,” he said.

One of the high­lights of last week’s cel­e­bra­tion was the visit of Michaelle Jean, the Gover­nor Gen­eral of Canada. Her visit to New­found­land was likely her last as Gover­nor Gen­eral, since her term ends at the end of Septem­ber.

Dur­ing her speech at Cupids, Jean said she was “ won over” by this prov­ince dur­ing her first visit in July 2006. Jean is also an “ is­land woman,” hav­ing grown up in Haiti, and she made spe­cial men­tion of this prov­ince’s gen­er­ous re­sponse to the earth­quake that dev­as­tated her coun­try ear­lier this year.

“ Your prov­ince is not in­dif­fer­ent and is ob­vi­ously open to the world. Thank-you,” she stated.

But it was Lieu­tenant-Gover­nor John Cros­bie who had the large au­di­ence in stitches. The for­mer politician tried his hand at French when in­tro­duc­ing the Gover­nor-Gen­eral, but cau­tioned the au­di­ence “ you may not rec­og­nize the lan­guage.” It’s of­ten been said that Cros­bie’s short­com­ings with Canada’s other of­fi­cial lan­guage prob­a­bly pre­vented him from be­com­ing prime min­is­ter.

“I made a prom­ise to my­self that she’s got to go off with my French ring­ing in her ears,” Cros­bie joked.

Lieu­tenant-Gover­nor John Cros­bie, Gover­nor Gen­eral Michaelle Jean and Premier Danny Wil­liams are pic­tured to­gether on stage dur­ing the of­fi­cial open­ing cer­e­monies of the Cupids Cove Soiree on Aug. 17.

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