July 25, 2003
Final preparations are underway at the University of Maine at Fort Kent to commemorate the institution's 125th anniversary with a year-long celebration that will begin in late August and reach throughout the St. John Valley, before concluding next May.
More than 50 events, ranging from historical and art exhibits to trivia contests and an original musical production, are being planned to mark the momentous occasion.
Festivities will officially get underway at 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, August 27, on the grounds of the Acadian Village in Van Buren, when the public is invited to join members of the campus community in a re-enactment of the first day of classes at the Madawaska Training School, the institution founded in 1878, which later became UMFK. In the early years, M.T.S. had campuses in both Fort Kent and Van Buren.
A different kind of opening celebration will be held to mark the first days on campus for students in this year's incoming class. On September 2 and 3, UMFK will go into full birthday party mode for the two-day orientation activities. Complete with lots of birthday cake and festive decorations, all new students will immediately be introduced to the 125th anniversary.
The weekend of September 19, 20 and 21 will hold the greatest concentration of celebratory events that will take place on and around the university campus. Several major activities will be held over the three days, including the inauguration of Richard W. Cost, UMFK's ninth president, a 125th community birthday bash, a parade, a gala banquet and dance, as well as numerous community events featured as part of Fort Kent's annual Scarecrow Festival, which the Chamber of Commerce has moved to coincide with the university's big weekend.
An educational event that will mark the official first day of classes at M.T.S. on September 30, 1878, will be held at UMFK on that date this year. It will feature a demonstration on the latest technology available for teaching.
October will include a number of events that will pay tribute to the past and vibrant present on campus. Among the festivities planned are a historical and haunted scavenger hunt, as well as a joint event with the Fort Kent Business and Professional Women's Club that will honor some of the early women at UMFK, and a day designated to celebrate the diverse cultures of students, faculty, staff and local community members.
November's highlighted events will include the fall theatre production presented by UMFK Performing Arts and the annual Bengal Tip-Off Tournament, which signals the start of the basketball season. This year's tournament will include a unique look back at the athletic program at the university.
The stage in the Fox Auditorium will come alive with 125th anniversary activities in December. A special campus and community talent revue, which will, in part, honor the more entertaining history of UMFK, will be held, as well as a winter concert.
The celebration will continue in January 2004, when UMFK hosts a free community ski night at Lonesome Pine Trails in Fort Kent. In addition, the first month of the new year will feature a unique look at year's past at the university, when finalists in a four-month long trivia contest participate in a "live" final round competition.
February's events will feature a community reception to celebrate the annual Can-Am Sled Dog Races, as well as new twists to the popular Mardi Gras Celebrations held on campus, which include the Fiddlers' Jamboree and Soiree du Bon Vieux Temps.
In March, UMFK will join the rest of the community and region, as Biathlon World Cup fever takes over the area. In addition to hosting the athletes on campus, several events will be held at the university during the week. The annual campus "Sucrerie" will follow later in the month.
April will again bring history and humor to the forefront when UMFK Performing Arts presents "UMFK: The Musical", an entertaining production that looks back at the memorable and not-so-memorable events of the first 125 years. Later in the month, university officials also plan to hold an official grand opening for the new Acadian Archives facility, which is currently under construction on the campus quad.
The year of celebration will be capped off with a spring concert and commencement weekend activities in early May.
In addition to dozens of special events, the university will also host a series of special happenings throughout the anniversary year. Among them, an event planned for each month, which celebrates the popular culture of each of the last six decades.
Movie showings, dances, social gatherings, and even a karaoke event will highlight the monthly events, which will begin in September with a "1950's-style welcome back social".
Several projects will be on exhibit on and around the campus throughout the academic year.
A text and photo project, which looks back at each of the nine administrative heads throughout UMFK's history, is currently being produced and will be on display at numerous events throughout the year.
The Blake Library Art Gallery, located on campus, will host several unique exhibits that pay tribute to the university's rich history. Among them an historic photography exhibit, an original collection of art presented by faculty, friends and alumni of UMFK, a look back at the styles of UMFK over 125 years, an Acadian Culture exhibit, and showing by local middle and high school students of work they will complete that reflects the university's influence in the community.
The year-long celebration is open to the public, and community members are encouraged to participate.
For more information and a complete listing of events, visit the UMFK 125th Anniversary Celebration website at www.umfk.maine.edu/125 or contact the university relations office at (207) 834-7557.