Opinion

Celebrating the history of thriving communities in Aroostook County

In Aroostook County, we are known for our work ethic, our hospitality and our vast rural landscape. It’s a reputation that reflects both the spirit of our people and our values. As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Fort Kent, Frenchville and Madawaska, and the 160th anniversary of Caribou, what makes The County special is the people and small businesses that make up our thriving communities.

In Fort Kent, we’ve seen how a close-knit community bands together time and time again to put northern Maine on the map between the Can-Am races, the biathlon, the Muskie Derby and the Ploye Festival. What most people around the state don’t know is that these events are put on almost entirely by volunteers. It’s because of these dedicated volunteers that these events have grown dramatically, attracting visitors from all over the world to northern Maine.

The Can-Am is a terrific example. Each January, the Can-Am attracts thousands to Fort Kent for dog-sled racing and Aroostook County hospitality. It has grown from a program featuring one race with nine teams in 1993 to a program featuring three races with a cap at 30 teams per race today. That is nothing short of extraordinary and it wouldn’t be possible without the volunteers who make it happen.

In Madawaska, we have a community that has never forgotten its deep Acadian roots that so many of us share along the St. John River. Each year, the town pulls together to host the annual Acadian Festival, celebrating food, family, community and the Valley’s rich Acadian heritage and history. This year’s celebration was no different, with thousands making the trip to the county to partake in the festivities.

 Part of that Acadian heritage includes the Twin Rivers Paper Mill that has stood had the center of Madawaska for almost a century. Much like the community and forest products industry at large, the mill has evolved with the changing economy, switching ownership on several occasions. It still remains an economic engine for the community and continues the legacy of Maine’s heritage industries. 

Down the road from Madawaska, the Acadian heritage is alive and well in Frenchville, with the majority of residents speaking both French and English at home. I see many similarities between my hometown of Allagash and Frenchville — two small communities with a deep and rich history that have worked so hard to preserve their way of life for generations to come. 

These are just examples of strong communities throughout The County, celebrating 150 years. At the other end of the district, we have Caribou, which celebrates the 160th anniversary of its incorporation as the town of Lyndon. The people of Caribou certainly have a lot to be proud of with their rich agricultural history that continues to support Maine’s potato industry. And  later this month, a Caribou native will venture into space, an amazing feat that the whole community should be proud of.

At the heart of a small state like Maine is our vast network of communities, each with their own identity, character and history. To me, that’s something worth celebrating.

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