February 25, 2005
Although the first two weeks of March mark spring break for University of Maine at Fort Kent students and faculty, the campus will be anything but quiet in the month that is now known as "March Madness" in the local community.
Indeed UMFK will play a pivotal role in lending a hand to the community in hosting a flurry of activity, which will begin on March 5 with the 13th Annual Can-Am Crown Sled Dog Races, continue the following two weeks with the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Nordic Skiing World Championships, and before month's end bring the 20th Annual Pride of Lion's Show and UMFK Sucrerie to campus.
The University, which has signed on as an official sponsor of the Can-Am Races and as an official partner/sponsor of the IPC Games, will host activities and events throughout March that will both enhance and complement a full calendar of planned community functions.
The first event planned on the UMFK campus will be an open house to celebrate the success of the Can-Am Crown Sled Dog Races.
Hosted by President and Mrs. Richard Cost, the event will be held on Saturday, March 5 at Acadia House, the official residence of UMFK's president, beginning at 12:00 noon, shortly after the departure of the final team of dogs at the famous Main Street start. The open house will wrap up at 3:00 p.m.
"This is an annual event, one that Ellen and I look forward to every year" said Cost. "This year the Chancellor of the University of Maine System, Dr. Joseph Westphal is planning to spend the day with us here in town."
Current registrations for the Can-Am Races show a record number of racers are anticipated, which could mean upwards of eleven hundred dogs, their mushers and handlers, added to the hundreds of volunteers and thousands of spectators expected at the start line.
Can-Am weekend will also mark the first opportunity for volunteers helping with the IPC games to become accredited for the event and to learn more about the experience.
A volunteer briefing meeting will be held at UMFK on Friday, March 4 at 6:00 p.m. and a repeat of the session will be held on Sunday, March 6 at 3:00 p.m. Both meetings are planned for the UMFK SportsCenter, which is the official off-venue administrative headquarters for IPC events.
The accreditation office and volunteer uniform distribution center will also be open in the SportsCenter during Can-Am weekend for volunteers, athletes, media and others.
Under the agreement with the IPC, UMFK will serve as the host site and administrative headquarters for a number of activities held away from the Maine Winter Sports Center's 10th Mountain Division Lodge during the two weeks in March.
In the days leading up to the first sporting contests, the UMFK SportsCenter will also be the site for athlete classification that will allow officials with the IPC to test athletes to determine their level of ability for competition.
Throughout the two weeks of sport, coaches and team officials from each of the participating nations will hold a total of seven team captain's meetings on the UMFK campus. The meetings are held to discuss details of the next day's competition, and in some cases to determine the start order of athletes in the race.
IPC officials will also hold two IPC Nordic skiing open forums for teams at UMFK during their time in Fort Kent. The gatherings are held to address the future of the sport within the IPC movement.
The University will also provide facilities and organizational support for the organizing committee's VIP dinner, and for a closing gala open to all participants and volunteers as a thank you on March 20 after the final day of competition.
As the figurative curtain opens on the IPC games for the first day of competition on March 12, the literal curtain will open on the same day for the Northern Maine Drama Festival hosted by UMFK.
The event will take place in the University's Fox Auditorium on Saturday, March 12, bringing together drama clubs from five Northern Maine high schools.
And the curtain will again rise in UMFK's Fox Auditorium on March 17, 18 and 19 for the 20th Annual Fort Kent Pride of Lions Show.
The popular and humorous Valley production that regularly fills the 450-seat auditorium will be performed at 8:00 p.m. each evening.
A week later, UMFK will hold its annual Acadian celebration of the spring season when the campus hosts the seventh annual "Sucrerie" or maple sugar day on March 24 between 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.
The event, which is open to the public, draws more than 300 people for a taste of maple taffy poured on the snow and a traditional Acadian buffet meal.
For more information on "March Madness" activities on the UMFK campus, contact the university relations office at (207) 834-7557.