MONTAGUE — It was the invasion of the infectious here Tuesday evening.
More than 1,000 spirited individuals infiltrated eastern P.E.I.’s largest town and chanted and cheered during the welcome march to the official opening of the Canadian Student Leadership Conference.
Hailing from every province and territory, they are high school students considered the future leaders of every Canadian discipline from art and business to health and well-being.
“We are so happy to host you here in the Cradle of Confederation,’’ said Education Minister Alan McIsaac to rousing cheers.
As the sun began to set, the parade of participants, decked out in provincial colours, marched a short distance from the regional high school to the Cavendish Farms Wellness Centre. Their provincial cheers and chants echoed through the town and the party continued to pumping music and a light show indoors.
A classic fiddle tune had many students, led by Newfoundlanders, flocking to the front of the stage to dance. The spirit was so infectious, McIsaac jumped to his feet in the front row and did a jig with English school board superintendent Cynthia Fleet.
“Soak up your time here and enjoy every minute,’’ said Innovation Minister Allen Roach.
Over the next few days, the conference will feature such guest speakers as Gen. Rick Hillier and countless workshops on growth, development and roles for Canada’s future.
“We were so happy this has all worked out,’’ offered teacher Bethany MacLeod, a co-organizer of the huge event with fellow teacher Sandra Hicken. “We were down to the wire trying to find enough billets, but the community came through to ensure everything went smoothly.”
Over the next three days, the 800 students and 200 teachers will also enjoy a showcase of P.E.I. hospitality, food, music and culture. The Island last hosted the event in Summerside in 2008.