Was Anne of Green Gables’ anniversary good for PEI?
by Nina Linton
Turning 100 is an exceptional milestone. And it is for that reason that you have to make the party a memorable one. As early as 2006 the Anne 2008 committee was drumming up ways to get people involved in the 100th anniversary celebration of the publication of Anne of Green Gables. They were looking at not only attracting tourists but also rekindling Islanders’ love for the renowned redhead.
Says Jeannette Arsenault, co-chair of the Anne 2008 committee, “We wanted to re-energize PEI to embrace Anne again. Anne has been around 100 years and the rest of the world is still all excited about Anne so we wanted them to come here and find an island that was all excited about Anne also.” The committee umbrella-ed communities around the Island who put on Anne inspired activities. Events spanned everything from ice cream socials, to theatre, look-a-like contests and a Cuthbert family reunion.
“It is too early in terms of our hard measurements,” says Robert Ferguson, Acting Director of Marketing for Tourism PEI. However, he reveals that their data shows that up until the end of August, the number of Japanese visitors staying in local hotels was up 60 per cent over last year.
Jamie Coles of Picture Perfect Tours based in Charlottetown PEI noticed his numbers were up over last year but he can’t definitely link it to Anne 2008. However, his clients who came to PEI specifically to take in the Anne 2008 festivities were extremely excited to be participating in the celebrations. “They had been dreaming of coming here for a long time.”
Coles also noted that tourists who did not have a prior knowledge of Anne or of her centennial were intrigued by the commemorative merchandise displayed in stores. On several occasions he witnessed these tourists purchasing things like the Anne of Green Gables first-edition reprint, released especially for this centenary celebration.
This memorial edition of the novel was a best-seller at the Anne of Green Gables Store, along with Lucy Maud Montgomery’s other books. The store dedicated to Lucy Maud Montgomery’s famous orphan saw a boost in their business during her historic birthday year. “I’d have to give most of the credit towards that [Anne 2008],” says Carol Peters, manager of the Anne of Green Gables Store in Charlottetown. “We have had a very good year, we‘d have to give Anne a lot of credit. All summer we have been asking if people knew it was the 100th anniversary and a lot of people did. They were more aware of it than we expected.”
As the year draws to a close, Jeannette Arsenault views it as a triumphant one. “It has been a great success as far as we are concerned to put Anne in people’s mind again because tourists still come to PEI year, after year, after year. I think it’s something like 10 per cent of new people come to PEI every year because of Anne and that is pretty exciting and that has been going on for 100 years! That is the exciting part that Anne will never die as long as Islanders continue to promote it.”