What’s next for Cupids?

New or­ga­ni­za­tion be­ing es­tab­lished to cap­i­tal­ize on his­toric cel­e­bra­tion


The Cupids 400 cel­e­bra­tions are but a mem­ory. One of the re­main­ing tasks is to archive the thou­sands of doc­u­ments for the sake of pos­ter­ity. In 2110, res­i­dents will want to know how their fore­bears, in 2010, cel­e­brated the town’s dis­tinc­tion as the birth­place of English Canada.

Last year’s cel­e­bra­tions came with a hefty price tag. To­tal fi­nan­cial in­vest­ment in Cupids 400, in­clud­ing pro­vin­cial, fed­eral and cor­po­rate con­tri­bu­tions, topped $10 mil­lion. More than 200 events were or­ga­nized to mark the oc­ca­sion. Dig­ni­taries, in­clud­ing the Prince of Wales and the mayor of Bris­tol, Eng­land, vis­ited the town.

Quite the un­der­tak­ing for a town the size of Cupids, with a pop­u­la­tion of only 790.

In the wake of all this hul­la­baloo, an im­por­tant ques­tion re­mains, what’s left now that Cupids 400 has mor­phed into Cupids 401?

Roy Dawe, chair of Cupids 400 Inc., is no less en­thu­si­as­tic to­day about the fu­ture of his town as he was at the start of last year. He says, “ We have ap­proval from the ex­ist­ing board of direc­tors to pro­ceed with a plan to re­or­ga­nize Cupids 400 Inc. into a new com­pany ten­ta­tively called Cupids Legacy Inc.”

Peter Laracy, gen­eral man­ager of the Cupids Legacy Cen­tre, adds, “ We’re not dis­solv­ing the old foun­da­tion. We’re evolv­ing into some­thing new.”

The fo­cus will move from “ build-

Roy Dawe is chair of Cupids 400 Inc.

ing and cel­e­brat­ing to con­tin­u­ous op­er­a­tion,” Dawe ex­plains.

Tran­si­tion process un­der­way

The old man­date — con­serv­ing, pre­serv­ing and pro­mot­ing the his­tory and her­itage of Cupids and re­gion — will re­main un­changed. How­ever, it will be car­ried out un­der the aegis of the Cupids Legacy Cen­tre.

The cor­po­ra­tion’s charter, man­date and by­laws will be amended ac­cord­ingly to re­flect this tran­si­tion, a process which should be com­plete by the end of March.

The first step in form­ing the new board of direc­tors of Cupids Legacy Inc. was taken on Feb. 22. A to­tal of 15 res­i­dents turned out for a pub­lic meet­ing. Bob Bishop and Sandy New­ton were elected as Cupids-at-Large mem­bers of the cor­po­ra­tion.

Cupids Legacy Inc. will be tasked with en­sur­ing the so-called “Cupids ex­pe­ri­ence” be­comes a must-see at­trac­tion on the north­ern Avalon penin­sula.

This new buzz­word — the Cupids ex­pe­ri­ence — refers to “ what vis­i­tors en­counter when they come here,” Dawe says.

There’s the Legacy Cen­tre it­self, in­clud­ing the ar­chae­ol­ogy lab. But there’s also the John Guy mon­u­ment, three-flag pavil­ion, her­itage gar­dens, har­bour front walk­way, and Pointe Beach. Laracy calls the can­non site “a very favourable photo op po­si­tion for vis­i­tors.” The old Methodist church is an­other visi­tor favourite. Sev­eral lessons were learned in 2010. First, Laracy points out the im­por­tance of “ look­ing at both the short-term and long-term vi­sion. Some­times it takes a long time to get where you want to go.”

Tim­ing is ev­ery­thing. Plan­ning for Cupids 400 be­gan about 20 years ago. “ We couldn’t do the ba­sics be­cause the fund­ing was an­nounced ex­tremely late,” Dawe says. “ We were un­der con­stant pres­sure to pull ev­ery­thing off by the sum­mer (of 2010).”

Sheer per­sis­tence is es­sen­tial. Lar­cacy re­calls “ when we couldn’t get doors opened. Even when we got in­side rooms and sat down and talked to peo­ple, we didn’t get much of a le­git­i­mate hear­ing. It was more to­kenism than any­thing.” But stick­ing with a well-de­fined goal paid rich div­i­dends in the end, he adds.

Dawe be­lieves “ the prov­ince needs new at­trac­tions. Peo­ple like to come back and see new things.” The Cupids Legacy Cen­tre, which is a debt-free, state-of-the-art fa­cil­ity, is just such an at­trac­tion. Laracy calls it “in­ter­ac­tive, com­pelling and en­gag­ing.”

It’s easy to miss the for­est for the trees, Laracy sug­gests. “ Some­times you’re so im­mersed in things.”

Large num­ber of vis­i­tors

For ex­am­ple, there were al­most 10,000 vis­i­tors to the cen­tre last year. This is not to men­tion the 5,000 or more un­tracked vis­i­tors. They typ­i­cally re­sponded with com­ments like, “ This is as good as any­thing we’ve seen any­where else in Canada.” How­ever, Laracy says, “ You don’t re­al­ize the value of what you’re do­ing.”

Dawe is pleased the in­com­ing board of direc­tors will be in­her­it­ing a “ fi­nan­cially healthy or­ga­ni­za­tion be­cause of bud­get sav­ings; a cash sur­plus bud­get to ease the pres­sure un­til we get into full swing of what we have not yet achieved.”

He iden­ti­fies one of the most im­por­tant lega­cies from 2010: “ Cupids is now on the map.” Laracy con­curs, adding, “ We now have what we be­lieve is an icon in terms of an an­chor tourism at­trac­tion.” There will be sig­nif­i­cant eco­nomic spinoffs as Cupids part­ners with other towns in the re­gion.

The fa­cil­i­ties in Cupids, es­pe­cially the Legacy Cen­tre, are de­signed to cater to the needs of a wide va­ri­ety of peo­ple. The cen­tre will be made avail­able to groups look­ing for new venues for ed­u­ca­tional, con­fer­ence and cor­po­rate events, such as work­shops and sem­i­nars. “ We have some­thing to of­fer all of them,” Laracy says. The fa­cil­i­ties will also be made avail­able for so­cial events like wed­dings. Dawe ap­plauds the “valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence” learned in 2010 by be­ing able “to han­dle 300 peo­ple at one time.”

Peo­ple from the re­gion, in­clud­ing school stu­dents, will be af­forded “a chance to think about and re­flect on the his­tory and her­itage of the peo­ple who have lived here for the past 400 years,” Laracy says.

An­other au­di­ence is from out­side the re­gion. “ We be­lieve we have unique ex­pe­ri­ences to give them a sense of how life has evolved here,” he adds.

The cen­tre also houses a fam­ily his­tory re­source, de­signed to as­sist with ge­nealog­i­cal re­search. The cen­tre’s ob­ser­va­tion deck, which over­looks the har­bour and Spec­ta­cle Head, serves as a green space. Events will even be held there, Laracy says, “in terms of ex­plor­ing our cul­ture.”

Dawe and Laracy are ex­cited about the fu­ture of their town. The events of 2010 were merely a pre­lude to even greater things to come. “ The Cupids ex­pe­ri­ence is the over­all re­sources, as­sets and ex­pe­ri­ences you can have when you come to Cupids,” Laracy says.

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