Origins, structure and purpose of Festival Savalette
Congrès Mondial Acadien/World Congress of Acadians 2004
Festival Savalette was born in the “aftermath” of the 2004 Congrès Mondial Acadien (World Congress of Acadians) historic celebrations. The latter event is held every 5 years in various regions of North America, where Acadian populations exist. It was designed to reconnect dispersed Acadian families and to discover their genealogical past and opening lines of communication among us all. The Tor Bay Acadian region was invited to host the Pellerin and Bonnevie family reunions as part of the Nova Scotia celebrations that year. We accepted the invitation with trepidation while facing a host of unanswered questions. Lodging, sufficient number of volunteers, and lack of services were among the early organisational concerns. Missing such an opportunity turned out to be more concerning than our fears, and determination triumphed over the unknowns. We decided from the early beginning that if we were going to do this, we would do it to the best of our ability. (details on our web site: www.socacadien.org) Upon the termination of CMA 2004, provincial organizers concluded that the Tor Bay Acadian region had one of the best celebrations in the province and its success is still being felt. Provincial events brought world focus on Nova Scotia as well as this small Acadian region and others. Great media coverage attracted visitors from France, a large number of American States, a majority of Canadian Provinces and a host of other locations. At the conclusion of the momentous CMA, the Acadians of the Tor Bay area were filled with unequalled pride and a confidence never experienced in our past. It was a cultural and historical awakening that moved us to the core of our being. We had accomplished what many thought was impossible and we did not want to see this new energy die a “sudden death”. Our final scheduled event associated with this great celebration was a public workshop entitled, “Where do we go from here”? This was co-chaired by Dr. Brian Joseph, PhD, Harvard University and Father Albert Maroun, M.Eng., Dalhousie University. After much discussion, three goals were presented to, and accepted by, ”la Société des Acadiens de la Région de Tor Baie (SARTB)”. 1) that an annual cultural celebration be planned, named and organized (Festival Savalette-2005); 2) that a unique physical and notable presence be developed and built that would remind us, and others, of our Acadian identity, our history and geography (Parc de Nos Ancêtres-2007); 3) that a resource centre be developed where our people and visitors would be able to learn more about our Acadian history, genealogy and culture (Salle Acadienne-2013).
The SARTB originally thought that its mission was accomplished with the completion of CMA 2004, but soon realized that its work had just begun. We set our immediate sights on objective # 1– the establishment of an annual celebration that would reunite extended families and serve as a reminder of our history and culture. It would also serve as a catalyst to have other communities become aware of our culture and history and encourage them to celebrate with us, and possibly, us with them. Like the CMA, it would bring the Tor Bay Acadians into focus annually in celebration and friendship. Upon deliberation, it was decided that such a celebration would be modelled after our very successful CMA events. That meant the inclusion of cultural and historical events, musical events, culinary events, and liturgical celebrations while attempting to provide activities for all ages and cultures to enjoy. The date was chosen to be the weekend after the August 1 holiday, so as not to conflict with the Charlos Cove Annual Picnic or Guysborough Come Home Week.
The name chosen was Festival Savalette, to bring focus on a very historical figure, Basque captain and fishery entrepreneur, Captain Savalette . This individual carried on a very prosperous dry cod fishery in our bay and its surroundings, and traded with the Mi’kmaq here from 1565 to at least 1607. An historic meeting occurred in 1607 on the north shore of what is now known as Tor Bay, between this Basque captain and explorer/cartographer, Samuel de Champlain. When this event was researched, Savalette’s qualities surfaced and described by Champlain and his writer Marc Lescarbot. They showed him as, ”intelligent, hospitable, adventurous, determined, confident and friendly towards the Mi’kmaq ”. These were indeed qualities that our ancestors were also noted for and the pillars upon which our communities were developed. That led to the naming of our new festival after this noted historical figure.
The Festival was to begin on Thursday with an afternoon Commemorative Celebration at the Savalette Historical Monument, where his story and that of the 1607 meeting with Samuel de Champlain would be shared and retold. This would pay tribute to the person after whom our Festival was named at a site that is presently found between Charlos Cove and Port Felix. It is hoped that this site will be moved to, what is felt to be, the historically correct location of Port Felix this year. (Watch for more info soon)
On Friday, there would be an opening bilingual Liturgy, followed by the raising of the Canadian, Nova Scotian and Acadian flags accompanied by the singing of our Acadian Anthem, ” Ave Marie Stella”. Once again our Catholic Faith and its connection to our history is revealed and celebrated. This would be followed by a local talent show at the Communities Along the Bay Centre and spontaneous family gatherings at a variety of privately hosted locations.
Saturday would have the following events: a children’s road race/walk; an adult road race/walk/cycle; children’s games; a barbecue; a ”Tintamarre” (noisy march); mini boat/duck race; lobster dinner; gala dance
Sunday: closing bilingual Liturgy; brunch; genealogy/history workshop
Festival Savalette began in 2005 and remains an annual cultural fixture in the lives of local Acadians, their extended families, and visitors. It has grown to also include a Thursday evening Honour Roll Induction Ceremony. This event is meant to honour individuals with roots to the Tor Bay Acadians, or have served here, for their outstanding contributions to this area, to the communities they live/lived in, or to the world at large. We presently have 20 very interesting biographies that we proudly share in book binders that are available for all to read. We have 5 more very worthy candidates to be added at this year’s event which has become a very popular initiative. We follow this ceremony with a wine and cheese gathering where the general public has an opportunity to meet the new and old inductees, if they are able to be present. They may also peruse the biographical books and the beautiful stories they hold. It is our hope that all domains be included in the Inductee group, ie., sports, business, military, religion, volunteerism, art, medicine, education, research, writing, music, etc. Inductee suggestions are strongly requested and encouraged. (More info and summaries of Inductee Biographies on web site)
Festival Savalette has always been a very open and friendly celebration that reaches out to the general population inviting everyone to come and join us in this fun-filled event. It can be a real discovery for the public to participate in our bilingual Liturgies or attend the official Festival opening at our Parc de Nos Ancêtres for flag raising and singing of the Acadian National Anthem, Ave Marie Stella. You will leave knowing the history of the Acadian flag and our National Anthem. You may choose to march with us in our Tintamarre, and learn the history of this noisy march, or simply experience our ”joie de vivre” at our talent show or gala dance. You may want to share our local cuisine of deliciously prepared lobster and desserts on Saturday, relax for our Sunday brunch, or attend a genealogy/history workshop. You may simply wish to take time to visit our unique tourist gems, le Parc de Nos Ancêtres and Salle Acadienne. Arrangements can be made upon request, for guided interpretive visits to these sites to view the amazing Monika Deursch and Charlotte Pitts paintings that meticulously reveal the history of the Guysborough County Acadians.
Wouldn’t it be great if everyone learned to appreciate cultural differences and join hands with our culturally diverse world/county? Why shouldn’t Guysborough County lead the way in showing our openness and willingness to accept the richness of diversity? Captain Savalette’s traits are found in all of us and the more we express and share these, the richer we and our county becomes. We invite other cultures to openly join us in celebrating our/their uniqueness and ability to survive what has often been described as a very difficult past. We are all survivors, very interdependent and it is incumbent upon us to show the way for future generations. As a part of Canada’s 150th birthday, let us lead the way to a healthier, happier and more open world by showing what a small, rural Nova Scotia county can do by joining hands with one another!