CHARLOTTETOWN — A yearlong party to fete Prince Edward Island’s role as the cradle of Confederation is getting ready to wind up with big New Year’s Eve festivities.
This year marked 150 years since the Fathers of Confederation met in Charlottetown to begin planning what would soon become Canada.
Many celebrations were based in the capital, but as the year draws to a close, the party moves to the province’s other city, Summerside.
The New Year’s Eve events begin at 4 p.m. at Credit Union Place with free activities and entertainment in and outside the facility including skating, bowling, swimming, buskers and snow sculptures.
Closing ceremonies will kick off three hours later and include a retrospective video looking back at the year on the Island, which hosted Shania Twain, Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the annual premiers’ meeting and a tall ships festival.
“We’ve had the who’s who of the Canadian music scene, we hosted the Royal Family and all of the premiers were here from across the country,” said Penny Walsh McGuire, executive director of PEI 2014, a not-for-profit organization that planned and co-ordinated the year’s events.
“It was really a year to shine for Prince Edward Island.”
Don Cudmore, executive director of the Tourism Industry Association of Prince Edward Island, said the province saw more than a five per cent increase in tourism revenues and almost a four per cent increase in the number of visitors this year.
Cudmore said he expects those tourists will return, particularly if they’re foodies.
“We’ve raised the bar on the culinary experience and I would consider that a legacy of the 2014 celebrations,” he said.
Robert Ghiz, who is serving his last year as premier until he steps down in February, said the benefits of this year’s celebrations extend beyond increased revenues.
“Island artists and performers had more venues to display their talents, which helped expose visitors to our unique Island culture,” Ghiz said. “And Islanders themselves gained a better sense of our province’s historic importance.”
The New Year’s Eve party in Summerside will step it up a notch at 8 p.m. for a ticketed concert featuring Doc Walker, the Rankins and Burton Cummings, who will be celebrating his 67th birthday.
McGuire said ringing in the new year will be bittersweet for her and her staff because they have spent three years planning and executing all the events.
“It has been a magnificent time for our province and a fantastic experience for everyone who worked on bringing these celebrations to life,” she said.