People think of big cities as great destinations. But I think small towns, especially during their most important festivals, are even better! My Canada 150 recommendation is to go to Caraquet, N.B., for the first two weeks of August and participate in the Festival Acadien de Caraquet.
The festival runs from Aug. 1-15 every year and includes concerts, the blessing of the local fishing fleet, decorating the town and dozens of other events. But the very best is saved for Aug. 15 at 6 p.m., when everyone in town parades up and down the main street making as much noise as possible for a full hour. There are drums and horns and noisemakers of all sorts. People shout and sing and sport the colours of the Acadian flag: red, white and blue with a five-pointed yellow star. They do it to grab attention, to turn the eyes of the world toward them, to declare, “We are still here.”
In 1755, the British attempted to remove the Acadians from British North America in the Great Deportation, also known as the Expulsion of the Acadians. It was a horrific event that saw approximately 10,000 Acadians deported between 1755 and 1763. Attracted by the French language, many found their way to Louisiana, where they became known as Cajuns. A few escaped deportation and eventually gathered in Caraquet, the unofficial capital of Acadia. This festival is a celebration of survival.
There is much to do in and around Caraquet as well. A visit to Sainte-Anne-du-Bocage, with its chapel, Stations of the Cross in the woods and holy-water font, is a must. There is fishing and golf in the area. I especially recommend the Distillerie Fils du Roy for award-winning whiskey and an amazing story of how this distillery came to be. The Village Historique Acadien, just a few kilometres out of town, recounts the history of the Acadians both before the expulsion and in the middle part of the 20th century. And, of course, there are wonderful coastal drives.