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Caribou welcomes BikeMaine during special “Sunday on Sweden” festival

CARIBOU, Maine — The City of Caribou has had no shortage of events and festivals this summer, and capped off its Sweden Street celebrations with a special “Sunday on Sweden” to coincide with BikeMaine’s trek through the state’s largest county. 

The Sept. 8 to 15 cycling extravaganza involves 450 riders traveling through Presque Isle, Caribou, Madawaska, Fort Kent, and St. Agatha, with the vast majority setting up tents and camping outdoors.

Each County community is welcoming the cyclists in its own way, with Caribou holding an additional Sweden Street event for the occasion. The Sunday, Sept. 9, street festival included a live animal demonstration, a performance from the Micmac Mawitan’ej E’pitjig Drum Group, a speech by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, and music courtesy of La Récolte, a Louisiana group with a distinct Acadian influence.

Bikers began their trip from Presque Isle at 8 a.m. Sunday morning and, at their own pace, traveled to Fort Fairfield, Limestone, Loring Air Force Base, and finally Caribou, where they were welcomed with a dinner courtesy of Northern Maine Brewing Company head chef Joe Gervais. The cyclists were treated to locally sourced food, such as trout from Micmac Farms and blueberries from Circle B Farms. The Caribou Kiwanis Club also volunteered to serve dinner to the nearly 500 guests.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins spoke to hundreds of guests in her hometown of Caribou to honor BikeMaine’s journey through Aroostook County on Sept. 9. (Chris Bouchard)

“It’s been a whirlwind of a day, in a good way,” Caribou Marketing and Events Coordinator Christina Kane-Gibson said Sunday.

She said she was excited to have everyone in attendance, adding that they were “all smiles, but tired” from their 50-mile plus bike ride.

BikeMaine Ride Director MaryBeth Luce, who also works with the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, a non-profit organization that strives to ensure Maine roads are safer for biking and walking, said the ride not only gave her an opportunity to assess the safety of County roads, but also helps to fund the organization’s work via grants that put money into Maine communities for biking and walking infrastructure.

Throughout the day, one of the more interesting stops for the visitors was the Military Heritage Center in Loring.

While she was born, and currently lives, in Maine, Luce said she had never actually visited The County prior to January of this year, adding that she was particularly impressed with the region’s vast, open beauty.

“I did not expect the real vastness,” she said, “the wide open, big sky country that you see out west. It reminds of when I lived out west, and I didn’t expect to feel as at home as I did when I got up here.”

She said her “heart has fallen in love with The County,” and that she plans on visiting again with her family.

When Sen. Susan Collins addressed the several hundred guests at 6:30 p.m., roughly half a dozen protesters held signs encouraging her to vote against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh over concerns that, if elected, he may overturn Roe V. Wade. A few also yelled, “Vote no,” during and immediately following her speech.

Collins, who did not acknowledge the protest, focused instead on welcoming the cyclists, who came from 35 states, to her hometown of Caribou.

“It’s wonderful to see so many people from the community involved in volunteering and joining us in another one of these wonderful festivals on Sweden Street,” she said. “Cyclists, for those of you who have come near or far, I want to tell you a couple of facts: Aroostook County is the largest county east of the Mississippi and yet we’re all neighbors; we care about each other, and we work hard to help one another. We are the most hospitable people you will ever meet.”

She concluded by wishing the bikers a “wonderful ride” as they continue their journey to the St. John Valley.

“Come back and see us again,” she said, “and thank you to everyone who brought this about.”

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