FORT FAIRFIELD, Maine — A full week of celebrating northern Maine agriculture is almost here as Fort Fairfield prepares to host the weeklong Maine Potato Blossom Festival.
The 76th anniversary of the festival starts Friday, July 7, and ends Sunday, July 16, with a schedule packed with old favorites and a few new events.
For nine days every July, when potato plants flower, the festival draws thousands of local residents and visitors from across Maine and the country. With the exception of the COVID-19 years, the event has celebrated the state’s premier agricultural crop since 1947. Its traditional parade often draws statewide industry leaders and politicians.
“The Maine Potato Blossom Festival is established in agriculture and is a celebration of agriculture,” said Cheryl Boulier, festival director.
One of the new events is a walk around Fort Fairfield hosted by Patty and Lynn Reynolds. Walkers will visit historical sites around town, like the one-room McIntosh Schoolhouse and the Fort Fairfield Railroad Museum.
“[Patty and Lynn] are originally from Fort Fairfield and they thought it would be nice to visit different historical spots,” Boulier said.
Around 17 chefs will compete Wednesday, July 12, at the Village Square to create potato-centric dishes in the Potato Dish in The County competition. Cooking will start at 5:30 p.m., with the winner announced at 7:15 p.m.
Hosted by the University of Maine and the state’s career/technical education culinary instructors, the cook-off is part of a four-day Aroostook County tour as part of a USDA Professional Development in Agriculture grant.
Local farmers donated potatoes for the event. American Agri-Women, including Aroostook’s Sue McCrum, will judge.
The contest aims to show people the health benefits of Maine potatoes and how to cook them in a variety of ways. It’s also an effort to inspire culinary instructors to incorporate more Maine food into their school programs, Boulier said.
Another new event will be the summer raffle on Saturday, July 8, held by the Fort Fairfield Parks and Rec Department, with prizes including a 2022-23 Boston Celtics team autographed basketball, golf passes, sports tickets and memorabilia from New England sports teams like an autographed football from the New England Patriots.
Funds raised will help support more youth sports and other recreational programs.
Parks & Rec will host nine events including glow golf on Friday, July 7, starting with pre-registration at 8:30 and golf at 9 p.m.
Live music is featured throughout the festival. Acts will include gospel music by Douglas Rodgerson on Saturday, July 8, at Fields Lane Bandstand; Star City Syndicate on Friday, July 14, at the Village Square Lot; and Too Far North on Sunday, July 16, also at the Village Square Lot, among others.
The festival’s annual family day is slated from 5 to 8 p.m. Sunday, July 9, with a potato picking contest, the Anah Temple Shrine Klowns and Heroes group, capped off with a movie under the stars at Riverside Park.
Fort Fairfield High School will hold an Athletic Hall of Fame Banquet in the middle and high school cafeteria at 5 p.m. Thursday, July 13.
The famous festival parade will start at 1:15 p.m. Saturday, July 15, with multiple new floats expected.
Other returning old favorites are the town-wide yard sale, alumni basketball game, Maine Potato Queen pageants, the Central Aroostook Chamber of Commerce Smokin’ BBQ Cook-Off, a car show and various class reunions.