Several years ago, dawn revealed a bleak and cold morning that would make most folks snuggle deeper under the warm bed covers and go back to sleep. Less than a dozen people were out at the Alma Village wharf, paper cups of lukewarm coffee in hand, huddled under the pavilion at a worn picnic table. Just a few feet away, the fishing crews bustled around on the wharf and on and off the boats, among the colourful traps and buoys, making final preparations for taking off. As the tide waters and the sun continued to rise, the early risers under the pavilion felt the anticipation and wonder of something very special.
That’s when Alma resident Jane Chrysostom decided that this experience should be shared, appreciated, and celebrated, and the idea of creating an annual Village of Alma Fishing Fleet Launch was introduced! With the help of more volunteers, the first Fleet Launch event took place in 2013 with steaming pots of chowder, home-baked rolls, and china mugs of hot coffee, serving about 100 people who made their way to the October lobster season kickoff on a 9:30 morning high tide.
Jane planned and ran the annual event with more and more volunteer support each year, including a picturesque bagpiper in full regalia sending off the boats, a concert at the nearby Molly Kool Center, donated food, fruit, and hot beverages for a breakfast bar, and colourful collector badges. Environmental education components were added with partners and volunteers from the Albert County Museum and Fundy National Park’s interpreters, and newspaper and television coverage bring the event to an ever wider audience
Having taken on a life of its own and celebrated for the fifth year, nearly a thousand people now rise early to get to Alma Village’s Fleet Launch -- no matter the morning tide time -- to see the crews set off fireworks, rev their engines, and skillfully maneuver equipment and vessels out to the Bay of Fundy waters for the freshest and finest the waters provide. Far more than the lobster itself, a livelihood for the people of Albert County, and an amazing experience for those just visiting.
Now run by the Alma Village Council, volunteers are always needed to continue what has become a well-loved community affair.
BREAKING NEWS: NB Tourism, Heritage and Culture wants to nominate the Alma Fleet Launch as Event of the Year for the Canadian Tourism Awards (tiac-aitc.ca/cgi/page.cgi/awards.html). Keep your fingers crossed that the event will make become a finalist, and then the winner…
Photos by Steve Chrysostom