August 8, 2003
An historic re-enactment of the first day of classes, for what was founded as the Madawaska Training School 125 years ago, will mark the start of a year-long anniversary celebration for the University of Maine at Fort Kent.
Complete with students dressed in period costumes and a history lesson on the boundary dispute settlement which established the northeast border between the United States and Canada, "Opening Day 1878", will kick-off festivities at the Acadian Village in Van Buren on Wednesday, August 27, at 1:00 p.m.
The premier event is designed to honor the university's rich history as an educational institution in Northern Maine and to reflect on how the school has progressed in a century and a quarter.
"Van Buren and the Acadian Village, in particular, is the ideal place to begin UMFK's birthday party. When the university was founded as the Madawaska Training School in 1878, its first instructors would teach one semester in Fort Kent and then travel to Van Buren to teach the second semester in what was then referred to as the "lower section of the territory"," said Jason Parent, chairperson of UMFK's 125th Anniversary committee. "The fact that the Acadian Village is the most extensive historic site in the state and that the university's unique and distinct mission guides it to serve the entire St. John Valley region, makes Van Buren the ideal starting point for this celebration."
Activities will get underway with the ringing of a bell on the Acadian Village grounds, signaling to the students of the training school that their first day will begin shortly. At that moment a dozen or more students taking a Van Buren District Secondary School French class taught by Dayton Grandmaison, 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 and traditional music will be performed by Valley-area schoolchildren.
Before the Van Buren festivities conclude, the public will be invited to visit the Emma Levasseur-Dubay Art Gallery, also at the Acadian Village, where an exhibit of historic photos entitled "UMFK From Our Attic: A Retrospective Exhibit of the Madawaska Training School" will be on display for one day only.
The exhibit, a project of Chad Pelletier of Fort Kent, features numerous early photos of M.T.S. It will be on loan from UMFK's Blake Library Art Gallery, where it will hang from August 18 through September 9.
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.