Fort Fairfield gearing up for annual Maine Potato Blossom Festival
FORT FAIRFIELD, Maine — The town of Fort Fairfield is busy preparing for another fun-filled week of events and activities that will take place during the 72nd annual Maine Potato Blossom Festival to be held July 13-21.
The festival will kick off on Saturday, July 13, with a town-wide yard sale, a horseshoe tournament at Riverside Park, a car wash at the VFW parking lot and the new Chamber’s Smokin’ Barbecue Cook-Off, hosted by Central Aroostook Chamber of Commerce. The cook-off lasts from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., with judging beginning at noon and people’s choice tasting from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Winners will be announced at 5 p.m.
Throughout the week the Potato Blossom Festival, which runs until Sunday, July 21, will feature many longtime traditions such as class reunions, musical performances at the bandstand, athletic tournaments, pageants, a movie under the stars, children’s games and arts and craft activities.
New events will include the Tough Tater and Tater Tot obstacle course, historical tours of Fort Fairfield aboard the Presque Isle Historical Society’s Molly the Trolley and a Kids Closet clothing sale hosted by the Fort Fairfield Housing Authority and United Way of Aroostook. There will be an expanded number of food and craft vendors located around Main Street.
Festival director Cheryl Boulier noted that the festival also has continued to focus on agricultural heritage by offering themed events such as mashed potato wrestling, a potato picking contest, antique tractor pulls and displays of both old and new farming technology. Depending on the trajectory of this year’s growing season, folks might also be able to view the blossoming potato plants for which the festival is named.
“We had a late start to planting this year, so we’ll be cutting it close to the festival,” said Boulier. “It’s hard to predict but we’re hoping some of the earlier plants might blossom.”
One of the most popular events continues to be the Maine Potato Blossom Festival Parade, which will occur on Saturday, July 20. This year the parade will begin at noon and introduce a new trophy and cash prize to a float that wins “Best Musical Entry.” Line-up will start at 10 a.m., with the parade beginning at Fort Fairfield High School and heading down Presque Isle Street before ending on Main Street past Hillside IGA.
Boulier assumed the position of festival director this past spring and previously served in that role in the late 1990s when she was executive director for Central Aroostook Chamber of Commerce. She is a Fort Fairfield native and remembers attending the festival from a young age.
“For many people from town the festival is a homecoming,” Boulier said. “Others will plan their vacation around the events.”
She noted that this year the festival was featured in Down East Magazine’s summer scavenger hunt that challenges people to attend and take part in events across the state, which has resulted in many southern Maine residents calling Fort Fairfield to learn more about festival activities.
“We’re looking forward to welcoming people from southern areas of the state, including those who have never been to Aroostook County,” Boulier said. “These are people who will stay in local motels, eat at restaurants and have a far-reaching effect on The County’s economy.”
Over the years, an average of 20,000 or more people have attended the Potato Blossom Festival annually. Boulier said that the work of hundreds of volunteers and sponsors has helped organizers maintain the celebration of agricultural history while welcoming new traditions into the fold.
“It’s great to see so many people gathered together, laughing and enjoying themselves,” Boulier said. “One of our goals is to help the festival grow even more and have something for everyone.”