Abram Village is in the Evangeline region of Prince Edward Island, the region with the largest Francophone population in the province. For the past several decades, this small, dynamic community has been organizing festive activities in French that are renowned throughout the province and even beyond. Famous singer Angèle Arsenault, a native of Abram Village, embodies the community’s musical talent that has become its trademark. During the summer, the Village musical acadien hosts daily traditional music shows and a dinner theatre with musical entertainment. A restaurant on site serves Acadian dishes and seafood. In the winter, the Village musical is a weekly meeting place. An art gallery, an arts and crafts shop and a bakery help make this a premier tourist attraction. Abram Village also holds festivals, in particular the Evangeline Bluegrass Festival in July and the Acadian Festival, which takes place at the same time as the provincial agricultural exhibition in early September. These simultaneous events draw thousands of tourists.
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The heart of the Francophone community
In Prince Edward Island, where Francophones make up only 3.8% of the population, Abram Village is an exception, with three quarters of its population being Francophone, according to the 2016 census. Although Abram Village is home to only about 200 proud and active citizens, they are at the centre of a regional population of more than 2,000 Francophones. Some 300 students attend the French school in Abram Village from kindergarten to the Grade 12. The school, founded in 1962, is the key to preserving the French language in this community, according to several people who have fought and continue to fight to keep it open. The village is named after the first Acadian who settled there, Abraham Arsenault, in 1820.
The Village musical acadien
This vibrant Francophone identity is reflected in the cultural activities that take place mainly at the Village musical acadien, a charming cultural complex that opened in 2014 and contains a concert hall, a hall of fame for the region’s Acadian singers and musicians, an interactive learning area where people can learn to dance the jig and play the fiddle, La Palette art gallery and a lovely outdoor terrace. Admission to the Village is free. In the summer, professional musicians put on two shows a day on weekdays, and young talent takes over on weekends. The V’nez veiller dinner theatre with musical entertainment takes place in the Angèle-Arsenault Hall two evenings a week in French and one evening a week in English. In the same building, La Trappe Resto-Bar serves typically Acadian meals and offers tourists a culinary experience in which they learn to make an Acadian fricot, râpure, meat pie and poutine à trou. The bakery adjacent to the Resto-Bar, La Galette blanche, prepares a variety of products each day. Throughout the year, dances are held on Friday evenings, where drawings for the Chassez l’as lottery take place.
Acadian festival, agricultural exhibition and other gatherings
Several thousand people descend upon Abram Village on Labour Day weekend. For four days, parents, friends and visitors from all over participate in the many activities that are part of this festival, inaugurated in 1970. The entire village participates in a parade featuring floats and costumes. Another parade featuring decorated fishing boats draws crowds to the shore and the pier. The PEI rubber boot throwing championship with several age categories for both men and women takes place throughout the festival, alternating with a strong woman competition. The amateur musician and singer competition finals are also held during the festival. An Acadian lobster feast, numerous performances by well-known Acadian performers and various other fun activities makes this one of the most popular festivals in Acadia.
Alongside these activities, the agricultural exhibition that has taken place every year since 1903 rewards PEI’s best grain, fruit, vegetable and livestock farmers. Farmers take advantage of the occasion to show off their expertise and promote the importance of farming. Artisans also exhibit their work during the festival. Every part of Abram Village, indoors and out, comes alive with these two simultaneous events.
The festive atmosphere also extends to other, smaller musical and culinary gatherings, such as National Acadian Day on August 15, the Evangeline Bluegrass Festival, the Atlantic Fiddlers’ Jamboree, the fall flavours event Clammin N Jammin, the Evangeline Country Music Festival, the Christmas show and the community flea market. The residents of Abram Village are truly welcoming and fun people.