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Celene Paquette and Heather Sullivan look over an article written about the 1909 Champlain celebration in Collier-s weekly magazine

WESTPORT -- Though some might consider 2009 far into the future, when one contemplates commemorating an event 400 years in the past, two years is insignificant.

About 20 people attended the recent Lake Champlain Quadricentennial Committee meeting at the Cooperative Extension facility at the Essex County Fairgrounds to share ideas and strategies in promoting the quadricentennial of Samuel de Champlain's visitation to the area.

In addition to celebrating the historical aspects, the committee aims to highlight the Champlain Valley's cultural and natural heritage and coordinate the efforts of different localities and venues for the celebration.

Some of the goals of the committee are to:

Recognize the legacy of Samuel de Champlain and the international significance of the region.

Celebrate the Franco-American heritage.

Restore and interpret existing monuments.

Develop tourism opportunities.

Link up with Quebec City's celebration in 2008.

The festivities are being categorized into "signature events," which would be considered the larger activities; "special events," which most likely will happen once, such as a concert; and improvements or creations that will remain after the quadricentennial is over.

Celine Paquette, vice chair of the Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Commission, chaired the meeting, which consisted of representatives of local colleges, historic sites, museums and businesses. Dee Carroll of Westport presented the "Narrows Guide," which is an interpretive guide to the Lake Champlain water trail for boaters, from the Port Henry area to Essex in New York and Arnold Bay to Converse Bay in Vermont.

Carroll emphasized the need to market the celebration with exposure through avenues that stretch beyond the region, such as airlines.

She had a "wild idea" of following the route of the old Ticonderoga steamship with a large craft such as a ferry.

Janet Kennedy, executive director of Lakes to Locks Passages, presented the possibility of having "pocket parks" along the canal, which would feature sculptures created out of recycled metal.

Crown Point Historic Site Manager Tom Hughes indicated that they have been evaluating designs for a potential dock, since none exists at the present. Art Stemp of the Department of Environmental Conservation brought up the boat launch in Putnam, as well as the lighting of all the lighthouses from the Hudson to Canada.

A version of the Web site that will allow businesses to become involved is being created, according to Jim Brangan from the Lake Champlain Basin Program.

Heather Baker-Sullivan, executive director of the Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial Commission, was the featured speaker. She emphasized that New York is unique and "through our waterways, we began to change the world."

Baker-Sullivan sees opportunities to clean up the waterways and restore facilities.

She envisioned a "Water Palooza," which will get people physically active along the water routes, whether by canoe or hiking and biking along the shore.

She mentioned the possibility of tall ships, as well as the involvement of boats with musicians.

"Music would be a wonderful component," Brangan agreed.

Bill Glidden related his experiences of participating in a five-day rowing adventure on a bateau from Grand Isle to Ticonderoga.

Margaret Gibbs, director of the Adirondack History Museum, mentioned the possibilities of tying in the Underground Railway routes and safe houses. Several participants indicated the importance of Native Americans, as well as once again promoting Champlain as the "Sixth Great Lake."

Baker-Sullivan hopes to meet with consulates to involve the governments and people of France and Holland, as well as representatives from Canada, and area Native American tribes. Invitations to world leaders, including the president of the United States, will be sent.

It was noted that William Howard Taft participated in the 300th anniversary festivities in 1909.

"This is a unique undertaking," Paquette said, "as we are involving two states and a foreign country." Tom Hughes added, "We have product. You can't come to Lake Champlain and be disappointed."

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