Kicking off the activities for the Fall lobster fishing season, the Molly Kool Kitchen Party hosted a full house in Molly Kool's childhood home on October 14th. Guests were entertained with song, dance, music, and storytelling, set in the era when Molly earned her Captain's certificate in 1939. It set the spirit and mood for the 2015 Fleet Launch, as Alma visitors and residents spent the day participating, observing, and taking photos as the crews prepared their lobster boats, and loaded their traps and equipment. It was a colourful flurry of activity up and down Main Street all day long.
Tourists Charlie and Bev from Idaho were among the many visitors who came to Alma especially just for Fleet Launch. “We’d long planned a trip to the Maritimes, and arrived in Alma last week. When we learned of the Fleet Launch we continued our planned tour to St. Andrews by the Sea, but returned to Alma this afternoon especially to take part.” said Charlie. Bev remarked the weather was “terrible the entire way” from St. Andrews, but was happy to see the rain let up in time for the festivities.
The Fundy Guild – a cooperating partner of Fundy National Park – hosted a free concert featuring the Sons of Gael playing and singing Celtic and maritime traditional music. When organizers learned how many people were arriving for fleet launch activities, the concert was relocated to the Alma Activity Centre. Event organizer Jane Chrysostom of Alma said, “As the number of visitors increased throughout the day, we switched gears and moved the concert to a larger – and dryer! – venue to fit everyone in.”
Chrysostom also coordinated the special Molly Kool Award presentation, also at the Molly Kool Centre. “It was a moving ceremony, as it was standing-room-only; we exceeded our seating capacity of 65, which was a real testament to the appreciation of the outstanding contributions that the award winners have made to their communities.” Albert County's Barbara Gebuhr was selected from many nominees for the 2015 award and was presented with the stunning Molly Kool Award plaque by last year's recipient, Brenda Orr, of Resurgo Place in Moncton. A posthumous awardee was Beth McLaughlin of Moncton, accepted on her behalf by Helene Robb. An standing ovation closed the brief but emotional award ceremony.
After the Sons of Gael concert press, media, documentary filmographers, photographers, and spectators lined the wharf. Members of the Chipoudy Communities Revitalization Committee rallied volunteer bakers to provide snacks and goodies for those attending, and local restaurants featured menu and beverage specialties. A table of 8 local residents enjoyed VIP wharfside seating at the new Tipsy Tails restaurant, and comfortably watched the boats gear up and get ready for midnight's high tide departure.
Lobster rolls, coffee, cider, and treats at the snack bar kept people fed as the wharf filled with spectators. “This is an authentic maritime experience for both those who live here and visit here,” said Chrysostom. “Lobster fishing is the livelihood for many families, it supports the tourism industry for those who come from all over the world to enjoy our local seafood, and Bay of Fundy lobsters landed at the Alma wharf have become a global export.”
Nearly 600 spectators filled the Alma village square and wharf to send the boats off on midnight's high tide to fireworks, bagpipes, and cheers. They were sent off with the thanks of a close-knit community, good wishes for a bountiful season, and best wishes for safety on the Bay of Fundy waters.
Jane Chrysostom has continuous roots in New Brunswick that go back to the early 1800's. She and her husband Steve run a Bookshop, Bed & Breakfast, and the Artisan's Shop on Main Street in Alma at Cleveland Place. Now that their four children have independent lives, Jane spends her time running Cleveland Place, volunteering in the community, and creating in her studio where much inspiration comes from Albert County.