BY SUZANNE MACNEIL
As Chéticamp prepares to celebrate its 225th anniversary, the community is gearing up for what promises to be its biggest and best summer festival yet.The Festival de L’Escaouette kicks off on July 1 with a Canada Day Celebration, and runs until August 22. The 43 day festival offers an ambitious roster of performances.
The opening evening will have a concert at the Chéticamp Arena, featuring a performance of the Acadian group 1755. Upcoming steel drum band La Compagnie du Carnaval will open the show.
Among the festival’s highlights is the staging of Le Grand Cercle, billed as “Canada’s largest musical.” Le Grand Cercle will have five evening showings from July 21 to 25. Written by festival organizer Paul Gallant, the musical takes the audience through the history of L’Acadie in a series of tableaux with a cast of 200 performers.
Gallant marvels at how the annual event has grown over the years. “Festival de L’Escaouette has grown from three days, to being a months-long festival…it grows by about 20 percent each year.”
“How we top this in 2011 with the bar set so high will be a challenge, to say the least,” exclaimed Gallant. “Each year we’ve become bigger, more vibrant, more innovative.”
The season-long festival will include a long list of main stage and arena shows, notable among these is a return of the crowd pleasing 1960’s-style Soleil. Other acts include Chuck & Albert, and Ça Chante Encore with Nicole Deveau and friends. Acadian dance troupe La Swing du Suête will be performing as well, after having represented Canada in the Globe Theatre Festival in France during May 7 to 17.
Another significant festival event will be the 225th anniversary gala, to be held August 1. The gala will include artists such as Ronald Bourgeois, Calixte Duguay, Marcella Richard, Aurélie and Bruno Cormier, and Colin Grant, all under the musical direction of Scott Macmillan.
Towards the end of the festival, Chéticamp will be celebrating the Acadian national holiday on August 15th with an open air concert featuring local fiddlers Entourage and the Québec traditional group Le Vend du Nord.
The festival is just one part of a busy year of cultural events for Chéticamp, one of the region’s most active Acadian communities. The growth of such cultural events and attractions is enhancing the area’s already strong tourist appeal. “There are about 350,000 people who take the Cabot Trail each year,” explained Gallant, referring to the famous cross-island drive on which the community is situated. “We seem to be keeping people longer in Chéticamp, it’s now a destination rather than just a stop.”
The Festival de L’Escaouette is sponsored by Canadian Heritage, Enterprise Cape Breton, Department of Tourism, Culture and Heritage, Destination Cape-Breton, La Commission du Tourisme Acadien du Canada Atlantique, and many local community-based supporters.
For more information on all activities, a detailed program of events, or to obtain information on ticket purchases, call Les Trois Pignons at (902)224-2642 or Le Conseil des Artes at (920)224-1876. For more information about all summer events in the area, visit <a href=”http://www.chéticamp.ca” target=”_blank”>chéticamp.ca</a>.