A soiree spectacle
Marquee event of Cupids 400 celebrations draws thousands
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.