The 68th Annual Maine Potato Blossom Festival came to a close with a bang Sunday evening with a spectacular fireworks display over the Aroostook River. The nine-day celebration attracted thousands of people to the area from across Maine, and throughout the country, to join in the festivities and fun.
“The Maine Potato Blossom Festival is a labor of love for the town of Fort Fairfield and the dozens of residents who volunteer their time to make it a reality,” stated Tim Goff, Director of the Maine Potato Blossom Festival. “The Festival has long been one of the highlights on the summer schedule in Aroostook County and the Festival Organizing Committee worked hard this year to improve the line-up of events to increase the number of visitors to our area from throughout the region and beyond. Despite less than cooperative weather this weekend, we were able to generate large crowds and considerable buzz as a result of these efforts and hope to build on the momentum we created.”
Among the major changes to this year’s event was the expansion of the traditional Friday night street dance into three evenings of performances featuring many local and national acts. Thursday night’s performances by Brian and Doug of Common Crossing and by Wally and the Virginian on the Festival Main Stage brought in much larger than normal crowds for Thursday that packed the downtown area to enjoy the music and the adjacent beer garden and food court.
A cloudless sky greeted festivalgoers on Friday, with thousands of people filling a section of Main Street that was closed off to vehicle traffic to take advantage of the beautiful weather and performances by singing cowboy Del Shields and the revamped line-up of The Kelly Parker Band. Hundreds more crowded into the food court to watch the mashed potato wrestling while grabbing a bite to eat. Many of the food vendors on-hand noted that the crowds were bigger than normal and sales were brisk.
“We had the second best Friday night ever at the Knights of Columbus food booth,” stated Tony Levesque, one of the organizers of the booth which raises money to provide college scholarships to Fort Fairfield High School graduates. “It was great to see so many familiar faces stopping by, while meeting new folks in town for the event.”
Despite a soggy start on Saturday morning, the Maine Potato Blossom Festival Parade, one of the largest parades in northern New England, stepped off as planned in front of a large crowd lining the mile-long parade route. While the weather kept many car enthusiasts at bay, the pre-parade car parade was well received, as was the appearance by the 195th Army Band.
“One of our goals this year was to capitalize on the large crowds the parade attracts,” explained Goff. “We had the 195th Band set to play a post-parade concert at the Community Bandstand. Stunt cyclist Chris Clark was on the schedule to perform three shows Saturday afternoon, and then the rains came, sending the large crowd scattering and washing out Chris’ shows on Saturday.”
Organizers scrambled to keep the shows on as scheduled, setting up tents as they closely watched the weather forecast and radar in hopes that the rain would pass. Tim Sample, Pete Kilpatrick and the Rustic Overtones all played for the crowds who braved the elements, with many in the audience huddled together under tents or closely clutching umbrellas.
“The rain, forecast to be only occasional showers, didn’t let up for more than six hours and really put a damper on the size of our crowds on Saturday night,” lamented Goff. “We truly appreciate the folks who came out to take in the shows, and the performers for their professionalism and efforts to have the show go on. I know many more people listened from the nearby comfort of their homes and buildings, and all the reviews we’ve received were positive, save for the rain. It should come as no surprise that even the 195th Army Band soldiered on despite a deluge of rain during their performance.”
The rain had a minimal impact on events Sunday, with the Human Foosball Tournament hosted by VFW Post 6187 attracting many curious onlookers to check out this new addition to the Festival line-up. Chris Clark was able to perform all three of his scheduled stunt bike shows on Sunday, drawing in large crowds to marvel at his stunt riding skills, before the fireworks display brought the festivities to an end.
“I was very happy with how the Festival Organizing Committee’s attention to detail and pre-planning kept things on track despite the obstacles and challenges the weather created,” said Goff, who is in his first year serving as Director of the Maine Potato Blossom Festival. “There is a lot to learn from and to build upon. I feel we’ve created some buzz and momentum this year, and already are looking for ways to improve the event for next year.”
The Festival Organizing Committee will be meeting soon to begin work on next year’s Festival and invites anyone interested in volunteering or organizing an event to attend and get involved.
“You don’t have to live in Fort Fairfield or be invited directly to get involved,” explained Goff. “While Fort Fairfield is the host community, this is a County-wide celebration of our agricultural roots. It takes dozens of people to execute an event of this magnitude, and with more input and energy, the Maine Potato Blossom Festival will only get bigger and better.”
The 69th Maine Potato Blossom Festival, with the parade always on the third Saturday in July, will be held July 9th through the 17th in 2016. For more information or to get involved, please contact Tim Goff at 472-3802 or firstname.lastname@example.org