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Valley youth to be well represented at UMFK 125th anniversary celebration kick-off next Wednesday in Van Buren

August 15, 2003


Middle school students from Madawaska and high school students from Van Buren will be among the participants in a unique re-enactment at the Acadian Village in Van Buren on Wednesday, August 27 at 1:00 p.m.

The event, which serves as the official start to the year-long 125th anniversary celebration at the University of Maine at Fort Kent, will revisit the first day of classes at the institution, which was known as the Madawaska Training School from its founding in 1878 through the mid 1950's.

A singing group of fifth grade students from Madawaska, taught last year by Roseanne Gendreau, prior to her retirement from teaching, will provide traditional Acadian musical entertainment for the event with a number of vocal selections that will be performed both before and during the festivities.

The students, led by Gendreau, will be in concert near the general store building on the Acadian Village grounds at 12:45 p.m., as members of the public attending the event arrive. Singing will resume at the village recreation hall at a social after the re-enactment of the first class taught at M.T.S. in September of 1878, which will begin at 1:00 p.m. in the one-room St. Amand-Ayotte schoolhouse.

Van Buren District Secondary School French students taught by Dayton Grandmaison will also play an important part in the celebration. The dozen or so pupils will dress in period costume and play the roles of the first students attending the teacher training school.

"We wanted to involve as many people from the Valley in this celebration as possible. The university has served the people of this region for 125 years," said Jason Parent, chairperson of UMFK's 125th anniversary committee. "Having the middle and high school students take part will not only provide them with a wonderful educational opportunity, but also start our celebration with a Valley-wide flavor."

The ringing of a bell on the Acadian Village grounds will signal to the "students" of the training school that their first day will begin shortly. At that moment the VBDSS students will emerge from several of the period homes at the historic site and make their way to the St. Amand-Ayotte one-room schoolhouse.

When they arrive at the school, the students will be greeted on the steps by Mr. Vetal Cyr, the first principal of the Madawaska Training School. Cyr, who will be portrayed by Fort Kent area businessman and town councilor Laurel Daigle, will ring the school bell, extend words of welcome, and usher the students into the building, where he will introduce them to Miss Mae Morrill, at that time, the schools only other instructor.

With members of the public looking on, Morrill, who will be portrayed by UMFK alumnae, Acadian Village director, and retired teacher Anne Roy of Van Buren, will teach the students a short lesson about the Webster-Ashburton Treaty, which just 26 years earlier in 1842, determined the St. John River as the international border in the northernmost region of the state.

Following the brief classroom re-enactment everyone gathered will move from the schoolhouse, across the village grounds, to outside the Frances Levasseur Recreation Hall. At that time, UMFK President Richard Cost will welcome the public and proceed to unveil the first of nine, three-sided, eight-foot high kiosks, which, through text and pictures, tell the story of the university and how it progressed through each of its nine administrations.

The display, that will be unveiled on the porch steps, will highlight developments during the very first years, under the leadership of Vetal Cyr. Assisting Cost in the unveiling will be the first principal himself, in the form of Daigle who will reprise his earlier role.

Following the unveiling, attendees will be invited into the recreation hall to view the remaining eight displays, all of which have never been viewed by the public before. Refreshments, which will be fitting with the period of time around 1878, will be served at this time.

The public is encouraged and invited to participate in "Opening Day 1878" festivities at the Acadian Village.

For more information, contact the UMFK university relations office at 834-7557.