The top news stories of 2022 in the Presque Isle area Part 2

1 year ago

Editor’s Note: The following is the first of two articles highlighting some of the Presque Isle region’s top business stories from 2022. This article highlights events from January through June.

The second half of 2022 featured many memorable stories across The County, including the return of several favorite events after the pandemic and a few surprises in northern Maine, along with stories of homelessness, housing shortages and a midterm election that saw massive turnout.


Taking a cue from last year’s first July Jubilee, the Star City celebrated Independence Day with free events that brought hundreds to Riverside Park. A fireworks display started things off Sunday night at dusk. The park was crammed with people of all ages for the colorful show.

Global potato processor McCain Foods is building five solar facilities in Aroostook County that it says will help power one of its largest plants. The company has begun construction at the former Loring Air Force Base and four other unnamed locations in Aroostook.

Thomas Park in New Sweden was once again filled with hundreds of Maine music fans, who gathered Saturday to hear some of their favorite bands and solo artists. The return of the Arootsakoostik Music Festival became a homecoming for people who have been longing to hear great live music or make the trek to Aroostook. Throughout the sunny and warm afternoon, groups of friends and family members set up lawn chairs or sat in the bleachers of Thomas Park.

Sen. Trey Stewart, R-Presque Isle, listens to debate at the State House in Augusta on Wednesday June 30, 2021. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Seniors across Maine were given the right to apply to freeze their property taxes when a new state law went into effect on Aug. 8. Sen. Trey Stewart, R-Presque Isle, originated the bill on behalf of an Aroostook County resident, who was concerned that seniors on fixed incomes couldn’t afford to stay in their homes due to rising property taxes.

When Chip Hafford decided to give up alcohol, he had no clue he’d be supported by people from around the country. Within days of posting his first segment on TikTok, his videos have gone viral. He has amassed 47,000 followers, 1.3 million “likes” and millions of viewers.


Maine’s potatoes survived a wet planting season and June rains. And although it was too early to forecast the crop’s size, acreage was up from last year, and pests and diseases were low, officials said. That’s good news for Aroostook County, where most of Maine’s spuds are grown, with about a month to go before harvesting starts.

Horses and riders tried out a new arena in a place closer to the action during this year’s Northern Maine Fair. The show ring was still the George Allen Memorial Horse Show Arena, named after a longtime fair organizer, but was located just behind the grandstand.

The Crown of Maine Balloon Fest made its 19th annual return flight to Presque Isle with 12 hot-air balloons Aug. 25-28 at the Northern Maine Fairgrounds. The festival typically draws 4,000 to 8,000 visitors to Presque Isle, organizers said, a boon for Aroostook County. Statewide hospitality saw a strong start this season following last year’s 61 percent growth in economic impact from tourism thanks to a relaxation of pandemic restrictions.

Scores of visitors turned out to greet classmates, family and friends at this past weekend’s annual Washburn August Festival. Saturday’s heat didn’t deter festival goers, who strolled around Story Park, enjoyed food and craft vendors, visited the Wilder Homestead and Aroostook Agricultural Museum and listened to live music.

The Albert Michaud Memorial Park in Limestone turned into an early European marketplace over the weekend when the annual Limestone Renaissance Faire returned to Aroostook County. First launched in 2019, the event aims to attract summer visitors while providing a fun way for people to learn about life in Europe from the medieval period through the European Renaissance.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — September 07, 2022 — The Presque Isle Elks No. 1954 donated $2,000 from its Spotlight Grant through the Elks National Foundation to support the efforts of Catholic Charities of Maine. Taking part in the presentation Thursday are , from left, Catholic Charities Program Director Dixie Shaw, Tina Dougherty, Alice Caron, Patricia Lovely, and Terry Plumber. (Paul Bagnall | The Star-Herald)


A YouTube sensation who has built more than a million followers with his craftsmanship skills is coming to Presque Isle. Scott Wadsworth of Oregon, who with his son Nate started a YouTube channel called The Essential Craftsman, set up shop at Northern Maine Community College’s open house on Friday, Oct. 14, to speak about the importance of skilled trades.

On Sept. 8, a long line of cars wrapped around the Riverside Pavilion in Presque Isle as seniors picked up their food boxes from both sides of a food truck. Aroostook Agency on Aging partnered with Catholic Charities to distribute 160 boxes of food in Presque Isle, passing them out with volunteers of the Presque Isle Elks 1954 to senior citizens as part of the Commodity Supplemental Food Program.

The $4.5 million aerospace research center to be built at Presque Isle International Airport will develop hypersonic rockets to be used in space flight. VALT Enterprizes Inc., which employs 13 people at one of the airport hangars, hopes to expand its workforce to 126 people when the facility is built next spring. The company will focus on developing high-speed or hypersonic propulsion rockets, which will be tested west of Ashland in remote parts of the northern Maine woods.

SAD 1 adult and community education director LeRae Kinney has resigned to become the new CEO at Ignite Presque Isle and started on Nov. 7. On Wednesday, Sept. 21, the SAD 1 board unanimously approved Kinney’s resignation during its meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 21, along with that of Melanie Jenkins, English language learner teacher.

Fort Fairfield got a new interim town manager following the resignation of Andrea Powers. Dan Foster began work as interim town manager on Monday, Sept. 19. Foster served as town manager in Fort Fairfield for 15 years before retiring in 2013.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — October 3, 2022 — U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine speaking with ACAP executive director and CEO Jason Parent about their plans for adding 13 new transitional housing rooms to the Hope and Prosperity Resource Center. (Paul Bagnall | The Star-Herald)


With about half of The County’s potato crop out of the ground, some farmers were already using extra storage they had planned after last year’s bumper crop. There was no word of farmers running out of storage space yet, said Don Flannery, Maine Potato Board executive director. Last year, some growers sought storage space at the former Loring Air Force Base in Limestone because there were so many spuds they ran out of places to put them.

The Aroostook County Action Program hosted a visit from U.S. Sen. Susan Collins on Monday, Oct. 3, to show her their plans for the new Hope and Prosperity Resource Center at 1 Edgemont Drive, including a tour of their building and programs. Collins met with ACAP staff members to present a certificate of authenticity and a U.S. flag to recognize ACAP’s 50th anniversary in-person.

Presque Isle Housing Authority executive director Jennifer Sweetser is working on a plan to bridge the gap between tenants looking for apartment rentals and landlords. Sweetser is screening applicants for the Housing Navigator Program — the state’s two-year pilot program — as part of a $155,000 federal grant awarded to the Maine Housing Authority through the Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan.

Southern and central Aroostook County voters had two candidates to choose from on Nov. 8 for state Senate in District 2. Republican incumbent Harold “Trey” Stewart vied to retain the position he won in 2020, while Democratic newcomer Danielle Fienberg wanted to unseat him. Stewart prevailed in November.

Jim Carroll, owner of Morningstar Art & Framing in Presque Isle, examines a watercolor by Evelyn Kok. Carroll has loaned several pieces to the Presque Isle Library for the Griffiths House Cultural Center’s Evelyn Kok room.
(Staff photo/Paula Brewer)


A prolific Presque Isle and Stonington painter will help inspire others at an Aroostook County arts haven. A Presque Isle resident most of the year, watercolor artist Evelyn Kok ran the Gallery of the PurpleFish in Stonington for 53 summers. She and her husband, Jan, a music professor at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, were fixtures in Aroostook County, wherever art and music brought people together.

Presque Isle voters had a steady turnout at the polls during Nov. 8’s midterm elections held in the Sargent Family Community Center gymnasium. Roughly 3,310 voters turned out in Presque Isle. That was more than expected and there seemed to be a lot of voters who were new to Presque Isle or had a recent change of address, according to Presque Isle city clerk Kim Finnemore.

Amid 60-degree temperatures and sunshine, residents and veterans from Washburn and surrounding areas gathered on Veterans Day Friday to honor and remember those who served. In a ceremony led by Washburn Boy Scout Troop 177 at the town’s Veterans Park, the remembrance featured a posting of the colors and a communal Pledge of Allegiance.

Aroostook County voters skewed largely Republican in statewide races on Election Day. Though they chose Republican candidates for governor and the U.S. House of Representatives, the rest of Maine went Democratic. In the race for governor, The County endorsed Republican former Gov. Paul LePage, who received 16,515 votes.

People experiencing homelessness in Aroostook County have more shelter from the cold. The Aroostook County Commissioners unanimously approved $179,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funding for Homeless Services of Aroostook during a meeting in Caribou on Nov. 15.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — December 4, 2022 — Maine potato queens ride down Main Street during the 33rd annual Presque Isle Light Parade on a chilly Dec. 4 night. (Paul Bagnall | The Star-Herald)


The freezing rain that delayed the 33rd annual Light Parade did little to dampen spirits when the event finally was held on Sunday. Lines of vehicles decorated with lights and some floats from which occupants tossed or handed out candy to excited onlookers made their way along Main Street.

A new free sand bucket program for seniors age 60 and older was implemented by the Presque Isle Rotary Club in partnership with the Aroostook Agency on Aging. Around $200 was given for the sand bucket program from Trinity 130 AF&AM, a masonic lodge located in Presque Isle, and the statewide Masonic Charitable Foundation matched the donation two-to-one with $400.

A long line of people nearly snaked out the door of the Aroostook Centre Mall for the eighth annual St. Apollonia Festival of Trees. There were 25 sponsors that donated trees and gifts for the Festival of Trees with one new sponsor being RLC Electric from Fort Fairfield that featured Gilman’s Electrical supply with Milwaukee Power Tools and a generator.

Bobby Nightingale, 41, of Presque Isle was sentenced to two life sentences in prison for murdering Allen Curtis and Roger Ellis in Castle Hill on Aug. 13, 2019. Superior Court Justice Stephen Nelson handed down the sentence in the Houlton courthouse after hearing statements from the family and friends of the two men.