Potato Blossom Festival begins in Fort Fairfield on July 13

2 weeks ago

As potato plants flower in Aroostook County, the town of Fort Fairfield is preparing to welcome thousands for the annual Maine Potato Blossom Festival.

A week of events from Saturday, July 13, to Sunday, July 21, will celebrate The County’s agricultural heritage.

Hosted by Fort Fairfield since 1947, the event is one of Maine’s oldest festivals and draws people from throughout the state and beyond. For Aroostook County, which grows 90 percent of Maine’s potato crop, it’s a chance to honor everything spud-related. 

The festival also provides an important economic boost as visitors patronize local merchants.

“It’s thousands of people that come, and we see it in the grocery stores and the gas stations, hotels and restaurants,” Town Manager Tim Goff said. “It’s one of those signature events in The County.”

Before he became town manager, Goff ran the festival for three years. The annual parade, slated Saturday, July 20, is still one of the largest parades north of Bangor, he said.

Festival chair Cheryl Boulier and a team of some 125 volunteers are busy tying up last-minute preparations.

“The festival means a lot to the community and to Aroostook County, because it brings in a lot of people,” Boulier said. “It is a tourist destination point.  And it’s a chance to have people see the potato blossoms, which are early this year.”

There will be close to 60 events in many categories, from sports to class reunions, family events to pageants, food and music — and, of course, activities to highlight the potato.

For kids, there will be potato decorating, a potato picking contest and a Spuddy Buddy challenge for kids 6-12, which will feature the Maine Potato Board’s mascot, Spuddy. 

The Central Aroostook Chamber of Commerce will host its sixth annual barbecue cookoff. For the artistically minded, there will be a potato painting art booth and Wintergreen Arts Center will host an agriculture-themed paint-and-sip session for adults. 

And to organizers’ delight, mashed potato wrestling is back — and a couple of town leaders are looking for takers.

“We’re hoping to get some more adults involved, and that’s why myself and Fire Chief Mike Jalbert have thrown our hats in the ring,” Goff said. “We’re hoping we’ll have some folks wanting to beat on us with mashed potatoes.”

For years the wrestling was a fan favorite, though it was sidelined due to COVID precautions, festival chair Cheryl Boulier said. This is its first year back on the agenda.

A local processing company has donated potato flakes, a byproduct of their operation, which will be made into the wrestling mixture, she said. The event will raise funds for the Fort Fairfield Fire and Rescue Department.

There will be a town-wide yard sale, pet show, class reunions, quilt show, horse show, vendors and meals to benefit local groups. The annual Maine Potato Blossom pageants will crown the Maine Potato Blossom Queen, Little Miss and Junior Miss.

Sports events will include basketball, a golf tournament, cornhole, horseshoes, softball, a swim meet, a bike rodeo and a road race.  

A series of concerts by local bands and bands with local roots will include the Good Ole Boys and Girls, Adam Ouellette, Wednesday Evening Fiddlers, No Pressure, Star City Syndicate, French Toast and Fort Fairfield native Ben Kilcollins.

A popular event from last year will make a comeback, as Reynolds sisters Patty and Lynn will once again lead morning walks around town starting at 7 a.m. from the recreation center. 

This year their theme is Fort Fairfield history, Boulier said. They’ll make stops along each walk that have to do with the town during wartime, peacetime and looking toward the future.  

A team from the television show “MaineLife” will attend and film a segment this year, she said. She’s glad of the interest, because the festival has drawn people from the West Coast and as far away as Australia. Some residents moved to town after having attended the festival, she said.

This year will be Boulier’s last organizing the festival, and she hopes someone will step in to continue the tradition.

“It initially started to celebrate agriculture, and we still try to keep that at the forefront,” she said. “It’s stood the test of time. It’s been around 77 years.”

For details, visit the Maine Potato Blossom Festival’s website or Facebook page.