As chief archeologist William Gilbert discovered buildings and unearthed artifacts for the Baccalieu Trail Heritage Corp. — a German-made Westerwald cup here, a 17th-century iron fish hook there — Norman began to ask about the Englishman John Guy and his initial 39 men.
He learned about their landing in 1610 (Who knows the day? There’s a burnhole in the document that might have told us) in what was then called Cuper’s Cove and about the creation of the first permanent settlement in Newfoundland. It was the beginning of English settlement in Canada.
This summer, Norman has been sharing what he knows with visitors from as far away as Australia.
“This isn’t the first year we’ve had a lot of people come here,” he said. “But we have a lot more people coming now, where it’s the 400.”
What do you do for a 400th anniversary? How about more than 200 individual events in a full year of celebrations, planned over the last 15. Add in a series of tourism-oriented capital works projects and heavy marketing.
“There ain’t ever been anything like this here before now,” said John Bishop, a resident of the town for more than 50 years. He lives on Seaforest Drive, a road running into the heart of the community, along the waterfront.
“We never had a prince, a premier or a prime minister here and now we’ve had all three on the same day,” he said. “It puts Cupids on the map, anyway.”
Fishery-based to tourism-based
Bishop said the fish plant had been the biggest business before the archeology site and tourism took hold.
The Quin Sea plant at the end of Quay Road, down past First Colony Drive, draws a historical line to the original cross-Atlantic fish merchants like Guy.
“There’s a nice bit of change. I’m here now, I’ll be here 35 years in September,” manager Rusty Noseworthy told The Telegram, standing inside his shed-like office on the plant site.
On the wall to the right of Noseworthy is a faded poster encouraging processors to “use every part” of a codfish. On a file cabinet to his left there is a second faded poster — “And no fish swam” — aimed at foreign overfishing.
“This was a big business one time … but then the fish just kind of went down, went down, went down. Then the moratorium come on,” Noseworthy said. “A lot of the older buildings are tore down.”
Today the waterfront plant has about half a dozen boats land beside it in the run of a year, he said. He amended the number to “four or five” later in the conversation.
The boats offload mainly crab and shrimp. The plant workers assist, provide some cold storage for the catch and offer to process any bycatch that comes in.
Noseworthy said 24 people do work for at least six months of the year at the site. Only four or five, “the few older hands,” were on when The Telegram dropped by Aug. 17, the opening day of the Cupids Cove Soiree, a main Cupids 400 event.
It is interesting that the first contributions to this year’s events came as a result of the fish plant, the fishermen and the processors.
Direct government contributions to Cupids 400 events began in July 2000, when the Atlantic Canada Opportunity Agency’s (ACOA) George Baker and then-premier Brian Tobin made a joint announcement of funding under the economic development component of the Fisheries Adjustment Restructuring Initiative.
“There ain’t ever been anything like this here before now." - John Bishop
The program — valued at $81.25 million at that time — was to help “diversify the economies of regions and communities adversely affected by the closure of the groundfish fishery.” It was a boost to towns affected by the cod moratorium.
The announcement by Baker and Tobin included $88,125 for the Cupids Historical Society. The money was to help preserve and promote historic sites in the community and aid in “the development of a preliminary concept for the celebration of Cupids’ 400th anniversary in 2010.”
Since that first contribution, there have been regular public announcements of provincial and federal funding to support Cupids 400.
They include a $3-million investment from Canadian Heritage for planning and event development and, for the Cupids Legacy Centre building, both a $1.5-million contribution from ACOA and a $3.8-million contribution from the provincial government. (A timeline of provincial and federal funding announcements is provided in a sidebar to this story.)
The Cupids Legacy Centre has had about 100 visitors each day since June 14 — 4,000 visitors in its first two months (for comparison, the Hawthorne Cottage National Historic Site in neighbouring Brigus has seen 80 or so a day, according to a summer employee).
The $11.50 (tax in) general adult admission allows for access to the exhibition area, the archeological lab within the building and the archeological site, a two-minute walk down the road on Seaforest Drive.
Walking from the centre to the archeological site, it is easy to pick out the other capital works projects undertaken by the town.
With the help of the $1.5 million provided by the provincial government for municipal improvements, the town has: completed a sewer system upgrade, set new pavement, planted flower beds, upgraded the Three Flags Viewing Platform, where the flagpole for one of the largest Union Jacks in the world is rooted, and fixed up the wooden sides where boats tie off at Pointe Beach.
The bulk of the funding has been provided since the 2007 incorporation of Cupids 400 Inc., the group responsible for official Cupids 400 events.
“Naturally, the hardest thing was securing the funding,” said Cupids 400 Inc. chairman Roy Dawe, who has been a member of various community groups planning for Cupids 400 for 15 years.
Dawe said the challenge was getting the different levels of government to communicate in regards to the year-long event.
“We eventually succeeded in that, but it took a lot of work and hard effort. But it certainly came about at the end,” he said.
At the Cupid’s Cove Soiree, The Telegram asked Premier Danny Williams if there was any chance the province has spent too much money on Cupids 400.
“We put $5.3 million into this celebration. This is a huge, international event — a huge national event for sure and an enormous event for the province. You can never spend enough on that if you at least create the legacy and you drive home, you have an awareness, for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and Canadians, of exactly how steeped our history is and how steeped our culture and our heritage is,” he said.
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