Potato Blossom parade features U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and celebrates agriculture

11 months ago

FORT FAIRFIELD, Maine — Northern Maine’s largest celebration of agriculture held its most traditional and popular event Saturday: the Maine Potato Blossom Festival parade.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins served as this year’s grand marshal, waving to the thousands of people lining the sidewalks of Presque Isle Road and Main Street in Fort Fairfield.

Pride Aroostook rides in the Maine Potato Blossom parade Saturday. (Melissa Lizotte | Aroostook Republican)

“Sen. Collins has always been supportive of our needs here in Aroostook and this was one way of showing our appreciation,” Festival Director Cheryl Boulier said.

Collins recalled how she grew up learning of Aroostook’s potato farming culture firsthand.

“One of my first jobs was picking potatoes for a local farmer,” Collins said. “It was wonderful to see so many Mainers out celebrating our state’s rich agricultural heritage this weekend. 

The Maine Potato Blossom Festival began in 1947 to honor Fort Fairfield’s heritage as the potato industry capital of Aroostook. Though potato farming is not as widespread today, the festival continues to be held at the same time that potato blossoms start blooming in nearby fields.

A John Deere tractor pulls barrels of hay for The County Federal Credit Union’s farm-themed float during the Potato Blossom Festival parade. (Melissa Lizotte | Aroostook Republican)

The nine-day festival featured many new events honoring that heritage, including a history walking tour and the Potato Dish in The County cooking contest. Other popular activities included a barbecue cook-off, family fun day, beauty pageants, class reunions and outdoor concerts.

At least 150 volunteers helped Boulier put on the 2023 festivities.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins waves to the crowd while serving as grand marshal for the Maine Potato Blossom Festival parade. (Melissa Lizotte | Aroostook Republican)

Without a doubt, the parade always draws the biggest crowd, Boulier said.

“Everyone enjoys a parade. It’s one of the highlights of our annual tradition,” Boulier said.

“Let’s Go Fry Fishing” was the theme of McCain Foods’ float in the Maine Potato Blossom parade, which celebrated local agriculture. (Melissa Lizotte | Aroostook Republican)

The parade’s theme was “All About Agriculture,” featuring more than 80 participants, including tractor companies, potato farmers, pageant queens, ATV riders and other local businesses and organizations.

Boulier has served as festival director for the past five years. She stepped up again last fall, after initially planning to retire, when the town could not find a replacement. 

Miss Fort Fairfield Emma Collins (left), Junior Miss Fort Fairfield Brigid Schupbach (middle) and Little Miss Fort Fairfield Lillian Alice Tilmont wave to the crowd during the Maine Potato Blossom Festival parade. (Melissa Lizotte | Aroostook Republican)

This year really is her final year, Boulier said. 

“It has been my honor and a real labor of love for my hometown to serve as your director,” Boulier said.

Little Miss Maine Potato Queen Evelynn Gayle Wardwell (left) and Junior Miss Maine Potato Queen Sadie Hunter wave while riding in the Maine Potato Blossom Festival parade. (Melissa Lizotte | Aroostook Republican)
Maine Potato Queen Delaney McKeen rides atop a truck during the Maine Potato Blossom Festival parade Saturday. (Melissa Lizotte | Aroostook Republican)