Everything began when Francyn LeBlanc, then Chair of the defunct Casselman Chamber of Commerce, realized that consultants from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs were here with available funding. This was perfect timing! Casselman’s centretown was urgently needing an uplift. “I wanted to see our small urban village be enriched with services in its centretown”, remembers Mrs LeBlanc, former President of the Corporation and the Christmas Festival. Together, they revisited the initiative’s potential, and as a pilot project, the Ministry granted them $55,000. “To get there, explains Mrs. LeBlanc, a lot of work had been accomplished with the Ministry between 2004 and 2006.” In 2007, the Community Development Corporation of Prescott Russell (CDCPR) joined the Casselman revitalization cause and granted it $20,000. Enough to got the ball rolling!
The Casselman population was surveyed and meetings were held to hear people’s comments, ideas and wishes regarding possible improvements. Two sub-committees were formed: the “embellishment” committee, and the “signage” committee. A fundraiser was launched in 2007 and the first “facelift” to village occurred: 16 burgundy benches were installed in the centretown as well as 16 flower containers. The south end of the village was not forgotten as it is now embellished with 10 flower containers.
“It was the first year and the best was yet to come”, remembers Mrs. LeBlanc. The first year, a consulting and architects firm sponsored the project seeing that the potential for success was evident. But one motto prevailed: slowly, but surely – just like René Angélil to Céline Dion at the beginning of her career. These professionals identified two important issues: the centretown’s beautification and the community’s revitalization. And what was the pivotal point of our village? The church, obviously. “Consequently, we needed to identify a meeting place around the church”, explains Mrs. LeBlanc. In 2009, we did some landscaping to the front of the church and added a paved stone alley.
The three first years, 2006 to 2008, were defining years for the committee. In 2007, they purchased four big tents with a grant of $9,740 from the Ministry of Health Promotion and also landscaped the Complexe J.R. Brisson. In 2008, the public square in front of the church is also embellished thanks to a $35,000 grant from CDCPR. The gravel makes way to paved stone leading directly to the Casselman train station. The Casselman Chamber of Commerce, which is dissolved shortly thereafter, donates an electronic billboard. Paved stone benches with flowers are added to the décor. A fence is installed to delineate the grounds for gatherings.
Between 2006 and 2008, four sub-committees are created. In 2008, two other sub-committees are formed: the organizational sub-committee and the marketing sub-committee. In that same year, the committee continues on its path and calls the population to action to gather its input on the creation of a yearly event that would reunite everyone.
It was then that the Christmas Festival was born. From 2009 to 2010, many more embellishment projects were accomplished. Improvement to the train station is one of the projects. The CDCPR granted $17,500 to the Corporation for landscaping around the train station and creating access for people with reduced mobility. In 2010, further improvements to the train station are accomplished with the addition of air conditioning, a small train museum and a bathroom for people with reduced mobility, thanks to another grant from CDCPR in the amount of $25,000. It was in 2012 that the objectives are extended to the south end entrance to the village with the planting of 36 trees, costing $10,000 graciously provided by the Village of Casselman.