THREE RIVERS – Driving down the Brudenell Point Road toward Roma is like taking a trip back in time.
Cruising past the countryside takes the cares of the day away and, by the time I arrive on the Roma Point Road and pull into the driveway of the National Historic Site, I’ve made the transition.
It’s the 18th century and I’m on the site where Jean Pierre Roma established the first inter-colonial trading post on what was then Isle St. Jean in 1732.
Dressed in period costumes, heritage guides rush from the pavilion – a reproduction of Roma’s home – to greet visitors. Jessica MacLeod takes time to answer my questions before sending me on a tour of the site, which includes the pretty heritage gardens.
There’s also time to watch the historical demonstrations.
In one area, visitors are dressing up in period costumes.
In another, participants are making candles the old-fashioned way with Patricia Betts, a heritage guide.
Still others are savouring the aroma of freshly-baked bread as Shawn McCormick takes the round loaves out of the brick oven or trying their hand at writing with a quill and ink.
Inside the pavilion, Wolfie Chong, of St. John’s, N.L., is exploring the heritage toy collection.
“This is fun,” says the seven-year-old, playing with the ball and string.
Across the room, Lise Morin, is enjoying a luncheon of Acadian meat pie and P.E.I. potatoes with her friends.
Like me, she enjoys thinking about how life used to be.
“Visiting the site is really going back in time. And, when you walk the grounds and see the artifacts that were discovered during the archeological digs, you can easily imagine people arriving by boat and the cod fishery,” says Morin, a board member.
On Aug. 2-3, people will be able to imagine even more during the Heritage Chocolate Festival, celebrating the arrival of Roma, 287 years ago.
“Jean Pierre Roma, who was trading in the Caribbean, brought chocolate to the location here. And we have various stories around that. Therefore, chocolate becomes part of what animates the place on a daily basis; weaving itself into life in the 1700s,” Morin adds.
Roma’s Heritage Chocolate Festival kicks off with a Friday Night Out dinner by Chef Robert Pendergast featuring Harpsody at 6 p.m.
On Saturday, the gates open at 10 a.m., followed by a welcome from P.E.I. Poet Laureate Julie Pellissier-Lush and the Mi’kmaq Heritage Actors at 10:30 a.m. A bread-making demonstration by chef Robert Pendergast is at 11:30 a.m.
There’s entertainment by Louise Arsenault and Helen Bergeron, Baha Vibes and Reequal Smith at 12:30 p.m.
Peace by Chocolate founder Tareq Hadhad will give a keynote address at 1:30 p.m. The Hadhad family ran a thriving chocolate company in Damascus but lost everything during the war in Syria. After three years in a refugee camp in Lebanon, the family was invited to come to Canada to start a new life in Antigonish, N.S.
Within months of arriving, the Hadhads resurrected their chocolate business, under the name Peace by Chocolate. And now they’re creating happiness and jobs.
Gordon Cobb, Chocolate Festival committee chair, is happy with the keynote speaker.
“What makes this year's festival special, our second annual on the chocolate theme, is the buzz around Tareq Hadhad's visit. A lot of people are excited to meet him with the Friday night dinner selling out quickly and many people intending to come to the Festival Family Fun Day on Saturday,” Cobb said. “We at Roma are grateful for the huge boost being provided by Tareq's visit.”
At 2:30 p.m. it’s Experience Chocolate with Eric Gilbert of the Island Chocolates Company. This will be followed by a basket-making demonstration by Marjorie Lewis Paul at 3:30 p.m. and more music by Louise Arsenault and Helen Bergeron at 4:30 p.m.
In the children’s corner, there’s crafts, toys, games and races and face painting at 10:30 a.m. and pony rides starting at 11:30 a.m.
Morin is impressed by the variety of the program.
“You have the music and the dances of the time. So, you have sound, scents and everything that pertains to the senses at this festival.”
PEACE BY CHOCOLATE FOUNDER
Who: Tareq Hadhad will give a business seminar, “One Peace Won’t Hurt”, on Aug. 2, 13 p.m., Kings Playhouse, Georgetown. Tickets are $20 and available from www.roma3rivers.com. He’s also giving a presentation at the Heritage Chocolate Festival at Roma in Three Rivers on Aug. 3, 1:30 p.m.
Second visit to P.E.I.: “I hope Prince Edward Islanders will find my story inspirational as we continue to do things to welcome people from away; opening our arms with kindness and love and see what comes back from them.”
Love for Canada: “It’s how this country works – on waves of love, kindness and peace. And, whatever you give, you get back.”
JUST THE FACTS
What: Roma, a National Historic Site of Canada, celebrates the commercial colony, established under the French imperial regime by Jean Pierre Roma in 1732 and subsequently destroyed by New England raiders under the British flag shortly after the fall of Louisburg in 1745.
Where: 505 Roma Point Rd., Brudenell, P.E.I.
Details: Site gives a glimpse into what life was like in the settlement, including an outdoor oven and restaurant service, heritage garden, wooded trails, school tours, a pavilion and more. The site is also available to be rented for events like wedding receptions and typically hires up to 10 parttime employees in the summer season.
Information: For tickets and information, go to www.roma3rivers.com or send an email to email@example.com.
Importance of chocolate: “Chocolate is the universal language of happiness. From chocolate we’ve built relationships of peace with our family, our community and with different countries. It’s a product of happiness: It’s something everybody understands, everybody likes, and everybody loves to share.”