Making Stephenville a cultural destination was a plan hatched in 2012, and activities planned for June and August this year are steps towards a bigger event, organizers say.
One of the events, called “Please Forget Me Not,” is to be a launching pad towards another event in 2016 — the year that marks the 50th anniversary of the Ernest Harmon Air Force Base’s closure.
At a meeting of the Bay St. George Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, Deborah Coughlin — a consultant hired by the Stephenville Cultural Destination Committee — explained that the aim of the events is to build a sense of place for visitors and locals.
The goal is to provide economic opportunities for existing businesses and to create a platform for emerging businesses, while preserving the American heritage in Stephenville.
Coughlin said the theme provides an opportunity for business and tourism operators to tap into and contribute to the region’s tourism product.
“It will tell the town’s history while using infrastructure already existing, creating a visually appealing environment,” she said.
Six locations have been identified in the town that will build upon the theme, including Blanche Brook Park, downtown Stephenville, the cenotaph, the Delta Dagger static site near the town hall, the Crash Site Pavilion in front of Royal Canadian Legion and Stephenville airport.
These will draw on personal stories of people who lived and worked in Stephenville and take advantage of existing green spaces.
In addition to the “Please Forget Me Not” event — which takes place Aug. 2, 3 and 4 and is based around the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War — Coughlin said there’s also air shows featuring the Snowbirds aerobatic team on June 21 and 22.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, the forget-me-not was used to commemorate those who had died in the First and Second World Wars, Coughlin explained. The small flowers were pinned in the same way that the poppy is used on Remembrance Day.
“The committee will be reaching out to others, especially cultural and tourism groups, to help out with future planning, including the third part of the campaign (in 2017-19),” she said.
Coughlin said individuals can provide their opinions, as plans for the future are by no means finalized. She said the committee would welcome anyone who wants to join any of the sub-committees.