Bangor Daily News - Monday, March 1, 2004
By Diana Graettinger, Of the NEWS Staff

St. Croix anniversary preparations near end

ST. STEPHEN, New Brunswick - Happy anniversary, Pierre and Samuel.That is the mantra expected to be heard this summer in these parts.

Four hundred years ago, French explorer Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Mons and cartographer Samuel de Champlain sailed into Passamaquoddy Bay and into the history books.

They landed on St. Croix Island, three years before the English landed in Jamestown, Va., and built a village, including a governor's house, and made friends with the native Passamaquoddy Indians.

It was the first European colony in the United States north of Florida.

This summer, people from both sides of the Maine-New Brunswick border, who are part of the Ste. Croix 2004 Coordinating Committee, plan to celebrate that historic event with a 10-day anniversary party bash in June. Tens of thousands of people are expected to come.

Although St. Croix Island is in the United States, Canada has historical ties to it.

"As the Passamaquoddy say, there is no boundary there, it is just one region," said Norma Stewart, executive director of the Ste. Croix 2004 Coordinating Committee.

Months after the French settled the island, one of the deadliest winters struck the area. Half of the 79 settlers died, and in the spring the French abandoned the island and moved to Port Royal, Nova Scotia.

"[The island] is seen as the birthplace of Canada," Stewart said. "And, in fact, it would be the birthplace of the United States because it does predate Jamestown."

On June 26, the anniversary date of the colonists' arrival, the celebration will begin at dawn at Indian Point in St. Andrews.

"The first contact between the Passamaquoddy and the French happened at St. Andrews," said Stewart. "That was [the Passamaquoddys'] summer home and that is where they first saw the ship."

The rest of the day will be given over to dignitaries and heads of state. Invitations have been sent to Prime Minister Paul Martin and President Bush. The president of France also has been invited.

The opening ceremonies will be followed by a concert of aboriginal and Acadian music.

The next day, an ecumenical service will be held, which will include the Roman Catholic bishop of Portland, the Acadian bishop of Moncton and a Huguenot minister from New York. The service will be followed by a community picnic. The New Brunswick Youth Orchestra will perform a two-hour concert.

Preparations for the Ste. Croix 2004 celebration got under way eight years ago when the St. Croix International Waterway Commission, which has oversight of the St. Croix River, met to discuss about how to mark the historic milestone.

By 1997, a coordinating committee was formed and in 1999, a staff person was hired. In 2000, the committee opened an office on Main Street in St. Stephen. The committee is made up of nine members each from Charlotte and Washington counties.

Three communities, St. Stephen, St. Andrews and Calais, Maine, each contributed $2,004 in seed money to get things started. The New Brunswick government picked up the tab for the staff and office operating costs, and the Maine Office of Tourism, has provided $53,000 in marketing funds.

The committee's mandate: to educate people about the historical significance of St. Croix Island, plan the official commemorative party and build a replica of the village at Bayside, a 20-minute drive from Calais. "A lot more people know about 2004 than they did eight years ago," Stewart said.

The committee is in the process of raising $1.4 million to build a replica of the village in Bayside, across from St. Croix Island. The committee has applied to the Canadian government for $1 million. The rest of the funds will be raised privately.]

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