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Shediac, N.B., marks diamond anniversary celebration with annual Lobster Festival


The official start of the 75th annual Shediac Lobster Festival kicked off in Shediac, N.B., on Friday.

“This is the longest running festival in the province and Shediac has always been a very welcoming town, welcoming tourist town, so this is our flagship event, hands down,” said Shediac Mayor Roger Caissie.

Before festivities even kicked off, several shows were already sold out. Licence plates from the Maritimes and beyond filled the parking lot and excitement was evident at the big lobster on Friday.

Officials say this year’s celebration will see expand to mark the major milestone in “grand style.”

“More of the Lobster Festival is going to be beyond the Lobster Festival grounds themselves where the ferris wheel and the roller coasters and whatnot are, so it’s bringing it out into the community,” said Caissie.

There are also more culinary events on the already jam-packed schedule.

“We have what’s called a lobster roll challenge, so this is a Master Chef competition, so we’ve invited several other municipalities to partake. I’ve talked to those mayors, pick the chef of your choice, we’re going to do this right live and basically Shediac is going to come out on top, obviously,” laughed Caissie.

The 10-day celebration runs from July 5 until July 14.

A lobster mascot is pictured. (Source: Alana Pickrell/CTV News Atlantic)

Shediac Lobster Festival president Pascale Haché says it has served as a “summer launch” for as long as he can remember.

“Our goal was to extend it over two weekends, so people can stay the week, enjoy the beach, enjoy the region and at night, come enjoy the festival, so we’ve really framed it so we become the destination, not just a pass-through,’ said Haché.

While excitement is building around the diamond anniversary celebration, the festival also provides a walk down memory lane, remembering past years and memoires that helped make it what it is today.

“We’ve been living off lobster and that industry for so long and it became part of who we are, that’s why we have our big lobster in Shediac. We have Cap-Acadie, which is loaded with fishermen, so we’re very proud of our history with the lobster industry,” said Haché. “In the end, it’s a community festival. That’s what it was, that’s what it will always be.”

For some, the memories go back to the very beginning.

Claude Frenette attended the first-ever Shediac Lobster Festival when he was just three-and-a-half years old and his dad was one of the founding board members.

“There was so much going on in one package, it was unbelievable to take it in in one week. There was never a moment that we could spend someone else because we were going to miss something, but that’s my childhood and that’s what I remember,” he said.

Frenette had hundreds of stories to tell from his time growing up at the festival.

“When we were young, we knew it was the best time of the summer because we were going to church those days and it was advertised in church two-to-three weeks prior to pray for good weather. That was the first thing. Then we noticed there were signs on the telephone poles,” he said.

Other fond memories included the parade, which was over an hour long, and what Frenette says was referred to as the longest parade east of Montreal.

He also talked about making the front page of the paper, listening to the live radio broadcasts and spending time with his family and friends.

“Each festival provided us with a different act. It could be a high-wire act, it could be acrobats, so we knew they would come on at certain times, maybe three-to-four times a day, so we had to go home for super or whatever and then rush back for the act and rush back,” he said.

Today, he knows his dad, along with the other community members who worked so hard on the festival, would be proud of where it is now.

“One of my famous photos I have, it was taken in 1993, the last year that Mr. Sweep was here, my father was sitting on the veranda watching the parade and he noticed my father and stopped the parade and he came over and shook hands with my father and my father passed that year,” he said. “It’s one of my favourite little stories.”

For the past 75 years, the festival celebrates not only lobster, but also the community, and it shows no signs of slowing down.

“Shediac is the lobster capital of the world for a good reason,” said Caissie. “We celebrate lobster and as long as that’s still here, and it always will, nobody can resist the taste. Nobody can resist that delicious meal.”

The hope is to welcome at least 40,000 people to Shediac over the 10 days.

“I’ve been going since I was probably four or five years old,” said Haché. “It was just a place where you could have fun, stay out late, and eat all kinds of candies and obviously I’ve had my teenage years where it was more concerts, more fun, so for us, it’s fun for the whole family.”

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