Rain impacts Big E spud sales
PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Although the Maine potato brought in big money and exposure for the industry during the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Mass. in July, the payoff was not quite what the Maine Potato Board had hoped.
“It was an OK year for us,” said Don Flannery, executive director of the Maine Potato Board, “but it certainly was not a record year by any means.”
The board announced Monday that baked potato sales at The Big E netted more than $250,000 for potato promotion activities.
Founded in 1916, the Big E draws representatives from all six New England states to share ideas, improve agriculture and showcase the traditional and new products that make each state unique. The event takes place for 17 days each September and features top-name entertainment, international exhibits, agricultural contests and daily activities. It has been named one of the top 10 fairs in North America, according to its website, and contributes $225 million to the local economy.
On the the 125-acre fairgrounds is the Avenue of States and the State of Maine Building.
Inside the Maine building, 17 vendors sell Maine products or offer information about the vacation state. The Maine Potato Board has been an exhibitor for more than 37 years.
Flannery said Monday that the biggest impact on sales this year was caused by something he had no control over.
“The weather was a huge factor,” he said. “The last four days of the fair were just terrible. It rained the whole time and it was cold.”
Flannery said that if the rain had happened at the beginning of the fair, he felt that the potato board could have recovered.
“But it happened during the last four days of the fair, and it was hard to make that up,” he said.
The Maine Potato Board trucked down 90,000 pounds of potatoes to The Big E, all from Irving Farms in Caribou.
Proceeds from the Big E provide a large portion of the board’s budget and go toward education and research.