FORT KENT, Maine — On the heels of a hugely successful event in Presque Isle, organizers of the International Biathlon Union World Cup are optimistic that they will put on an equally good show in Fort Kent.
The competition runs from Thursday to Sunday at the 10th Mountain Ski Center.
The Fort Kent event follows last week’s World Cup competition at the Nordic Heritage Center in Presque Isle, where three days of competition wrapped up Sunday.
Tammy Cote, volunteer coordinator for the Fort Kent event, said Tuesday that more than 500 volunteers are ready to help put on a great competition.
“They have undergone training and will be volunteering in about 23 different categories at the event,” she said.
Tuesday and Wednesday are training days at the 10th Mountain Ski Center. Competition begins Thursday with the men’s 10-kilometer sprint.
Cote said that the venue was “hopping” Tuesday, and the community was becoming busier as the competition drew near.
Finding the volunteers necessary to put on the event was slow at first, she said.
“Volunteers came in at a slow trickle in those first few months,” said Cote. “But we got more people to come forward as we got closer to the date.”
The majority of the volunteers are from Maine, according to Cote, with a number of residents of New Hampshire and Vermont also helping out. Volunteers from Canada and other countries also have signed up. Cote said that the University of Maine at Fort Kent has been a “huge help” in providing volunteers.
“They should really be commended,” she said. “We have some nursing students from UMFK who are helping, and members of fraternities and sororities on campus are helping with security. The college has just been fantastic.”
Activities also have been planned for outside the biathlon venue, according to Jesse Jalbert, executive director of the Fort Kent Chamber of Commerce. An ice palace has been set up in town, and activities will include music, craft fairs, fireworks and an international parade of lights from Clair, New Brunswick, to Fort Kent.
“We have started to see the town get busier already,” Jalbert said Tuesday. “We already have athletes and coaches in town and up at the venue training. I have also heard positive reports from [business owners] who have already been catering to the athletes, coaches, support staff and visitors. All of the hotels are filled, and most of the cabins and rental camps that we have available in and around Fort Kent are filled. It really is excellent to see all of this.”
Events begin Wednesday with a presentation on Maine’s Nordic Skiing Heritage at the Lonesome Pines ski lodge at 5 p.m. Music will continue all night at the Lion’s Pavilion.
Thursday’s events include a quilt show at Fort Kent Community High School, the opening of the ice castle, music at the Lion’s Pavilion and at Lonesome Pines and a mind reader and hypnotist at UMFK. There will be a DJ at the ice castle at 8 p.m. and a DJ at Bee-Jay’s Tavern at 9 p.m.
The International Light Parade begins at 6 p.m. Friday with fireworks after the parade. Live music will continue throughout the evening.
On Saturday, there will be laser tag, sleigh and wagon rides, the ice castle, live music, dancing and more.
Activities wrap up Sunday with the ice castle, music and dancing, arts and crafts displays, historical tours and more.
“I think that the activities are really going to help get people out,” Jalbert said Tuesday. “We have something for everyone and we expect the ice castle to be very popular.”
More than 70 entries are scheduled to take part in the light parade, according to Jalbert.
“We have gotten a lot of phone calls from people outside of Fort Kent asking us about activities and places to stay,” he said. “We believe we are going to have a very successful event.”
There are designated parking spots for people to board color-coded buses to the venue:
Incoming traffic on Route 1 from Madawaska will park at the green-coded Knights of Columbus Hall.
Incoming traffic on Route 1 from Allagash and U.S. Customs will park at the black-coded Irving Mainway parking lot or the Park & Walk lot on West Main Street.
Incoming traffic on Route 161 from Caribou will park at the blue-coded Saucier Brothers lot, the old drive-in theater.
Incoming traffic on Route 11 from Ashland will park at the red-coded Fort Kent Community High School.
All buses will run from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. from all park-and-ride lots to the venue and will run every 10 minutes through downtown Fort Kent. Designated stops will be made.