County Faces: Stev Rogeski of Fort Fairfield
For much of the summer and part of the winter, Stev Rogeski is busy with the County Bluegrass Festival, one of northern New England’s most popular bluegrass events.
In addition to all things bluegrass, Rogeski runs his Fort Fairfield-based business, Suburban Electric Company, and helps oversee Aroostook County’s recycling and trash management as a board member of Aroostook Waste Solutions.
It all blends multiple areas of expertise and interests for Rogeski, 59, a transplant from the southern Massachusetts town of Blackstone.
Born into a Polish-American family, he grew up in Massachusetts and spent a lot of time with his grandmother when he was young.
“My grandmother was the oldest Harley-Davidson dealer in the country,” he said. “She got her dealership in 1923. I grew up right in the motorcycle shop. She’d pick us up from school and watch us until our mom and dad came home from work.”
In his teen years, Rogeski saw his family break apart due to his father’s mental illness. “My real dad was unstable. And back then they never diagnosed that stuff, they just let it go. I left home when I was 12 or 13.”
Rogeski was taken in by a family who ran a produce business. They eventually migrated to northern Maine.
“I’d get up every morning at 2:30 and go to the market with who I now call my father. We’d set the food stands up. When he got diagnosed with heart disease, they told him, ‘You’ve got to get out of the food business. This getting up at 2:30 in the morning…you’ll never survive.’ Back then they didn’t have good luck with open heart surgery, it was still fairly new,” Rogeski recalled.
“He and my mom were looking around and trying to find a business they could run and not be so physically exerted. They found a farm for sale in Fort Fairfield and they bought it. When my stepbrother got married, he and his wife came up to live on the farm. I used to come up on weekends to help them out.”
In his late teens, Rogeski moved to central Aroostook County, invested in some land and worked as an electronics and appliance repairman at a store in Presque Isle, where he met his future wife, Nancy Kierstead of Mapleton.
Stev and Nancy have four children (and now two grandchildren).
Rogeski worked at Mecon Manufacturing in Caribou, which he said had “some of the world’s earliest automated manufacturing.”
“When fluorescent lights first came out, back in the late 40s and early 50s, the ballasts would get so hot, they’d catch on fire. Sylvania invented a circuit breaker. …When it got too hot it would turn off and when it cooled off it would come back on on its own. For the most part they were made at Mecon in Caribou.”
Rogeski worked at Mecon for 12 years and left ahead of its closure to enter an electrician training program
“At age 36, I went back to school and got my electrical license so that I could control my own future. I started my own electric company in 2003 and I’ve been self-employed ever since. I was motivated. I was able to come out with my master electrician license right at day one,” he said.
Rogeski worked on some of Aroostook County’s major building projects during the 2000s, including at the Defense Finance Accounting Service at the former Loring Air Force base and performing computer network wiring for area hospitals.
Along the way, too, he and his family took over the County Bluegrass Festival from the town of Fort Fairfield, recently buying back the Farm Park property and renovating its pole barn.
The festival draws hundreds of people to events in July and September as well as a winter indoors event.
As Rogeski heads into his sixties, he’s got his eye on maintaining the family electrical business and hosting events at the Farm Park, including weddings and, of course, the bluegrass shows.
“My goal is to do more travelling with bluegrass to find more up and coming bands. We’d like to see this keep growing.”