Four festivals, one weekend
by Don Eno, Monique Labbe, Tory Bonenfant, and Jeremy Boulier
Aug 15, 2012 | 2430 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Acadian Festival
Revelers made noise at the 2012 Tintamarre, Wednesday, Aug. 15 at the Bicentennial Park in Madawaska. 
- SJVT photo / Tory Bonenfant
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2012 Van Buren Summerfest Parade
A young lady hands our balloons for the Aroostook Hospitality Inn’s float during the 2012 Van Buren Summerfest Parade. - SJVT photo / Tory Bonenfant
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Aug. 15 edition: ST. JOHN VALLEY – They came. In colorful camp chairs, on blankets, and with umbrellas propped up to keep themselves cool, hundreds of parade-watchers packed the streets Sunday in Madawaska and Van Buren more than an hour before the Acadian Festival Parade and Van Buren Summerfest Parade were set to begin. Four major festivals took place last weekend in Fort Kent, Madawaska and Van Buren. Despite a few showers, visitors and local residents had the opportunity to participate in the Acadian Festival in Madawaska, the Fort Kent Muskie Derby, The Fort Kent Ploye Festival, and Van Buren’s Summerfest.

Acadian Festival

The Acadian Triathlon (formerly the bed race) was cancelled due to rain on Friday night at the Acadian Festival, but volunteers set up a tent along West Main Street in Madawaska for the Danse du Main Street. Bands, including the John Clavette Band and Giraffe Attack, rocked Main Street Friday night. Charlene Gervais, one of the organizers of this year's family Talbot dit Gervais reunion activities, said she was very happy with how things went for the reuinion. Family members came from as far away as California, Arkansas, Oregon and Ontario, she said. "Everything went very, very well," Gervais said Monday. She said the turnout at the talent show was “great,” and the family held a Mass at St. Luce in Frenchville. Gervais added that Frenchville was the first place the Gervais family landed when traveling up the St. John River. Festival committee president Mark Epstein also said on Monday that things went well. "The weather didn't always cooperate, but we had tents set up and we did great," Epstein said. "It went awesome." Epstein, who is also president of the Greater Madawaska Chamber of Commerce, said that about 100 entries took part in the parade on Sunday. Festival activities in Madawaska on Wednesday, Aug. 15 included ployes and chicken stew at 3 p.m. at Bicentennial Park. The Tintamarre procession took a turn in Edmundston, N.B. at 4:30 p.m., then proceeded to the Bicentennial Park for the Tintamarre, closing ceremonies, and music by the Acadian Singers. Among the awards at closing ceremonies was first place in the baby crawling contest, to Adam Cyr, son of Keith and Renee Cyr. Best decorating went to Ridgewood Estates. Parade winners included the Gervais Family Float for both Best Acadian Theme and Best Family Float; Mardens for Best Business; Doggone Beautiful for Most Original Float; and the Grand Isle Historical Society for Best Nonprofit.

Muskie Derby

At the Muskie Derby, first-time competitor Brent Stoliker took first place in the ninth annual competition in Fort Kent from Friday, Aug. 10 to Sunday, Aug. 12, catching a 43 3/4-inch muskie. Stoliker’s first-place fish won him a $2,000 cash prize; however, it was not the biggest fish caught in the tournament. Seven-year-old Curtis Dionne’s 43 3/8-inch muskie narrowly beat out Stoliker’s fish, making him the winner of the youth category. Eddie Jandreau of Fort Kent came in second place with a 42 1/2-inch muskie, receiving a $1,500 cash prize. Steve Thibodeau came in third place, weighing in his 40 5/8-inch on Sunday evening, winning a $1,000 cash prize. Cash prizes were awarded to the top 15 competitors. In the bass division, Chad Cote came in first place with a 19 5/8-inch fish, while Bud Soucy came in second with an 18 5/8-inch bass. Keegan Cyr of Fort Kent took third with a 17 3/4-inch bass as the youngest competitor in that category. In addition to fishing, the Muskie Derby featured fried muskie bites being fried up at “Muskie Central” (Quigley’s), and the “Final Charge” Maine Locked Moose Display from L.L. Bean and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, which was on display throughout the weekend. Pelletier Ford also had vehicles on display. Though the rain and low water levels deterred some fishermen from making the trip up north this year, registrations were still high as anglers fished many of the lakes and rivers of the St. John Valley through three competition days. On Saturday, visitors to Fort Kent enjoyed partly sunny weather. While the derby crew kept track of the fish, and anglers continued trying to catch the big one, groups of people went back and forth between the Ploye Festival activities, the derby station and a carnival at Riverside Park. Crowds gathered on Sunday afternoon at the official weigh station, awaiting the final results. Visitors from away chatted with friends they had made over the years of coming up for the derby. Gus Monroe of Strong and Barry Hammond of Livermore have been coming up to the derby for the past seven years, and each commented on the friendly and helpful people in the St. John Valley, and said they have been welcomed every year. The pair said that they see the same people every year at the derby, and have had a great time, despite only having caught one fish in those seven years. "Once you try too hard, it becomes work," joked Monroe.

Fort Kent Ploye Festival

On Friday at the annual Ploye Festival, rain did not keep away the crowd of people gathered in downtown Fort Kent for the making of the world's largest ploye. On Friday evening, the Bouchard family and their friends set match to charcoal and eventually got the enormous griddle ready for the pouring of the traditional buckwheat batter. During the day, visitors to downtown also took in the craft tent, which featured sweets, hand made creations and artwork. The sidewalks were lined with merchants, food vendors and clubs and organizations fundraising. On Saturday, Smokey's Greater Shows offered rides and games, sponsored by the Fort Kent Snowriders. Clouds threatened rain on Saturday evening, but people kept gathering along West Main Street, waiting for the fireworks and street dance. Vendors stayed open into the evening, including the American Legion serving “ploye boys” well past sunset. Van Buren Summerfest At the Van Buren Summerfest, the yearly event offered a well-attended family talent show in the middle of all the festival events, according to Tony Martin, executive director of the Greater Van Buren Chamber of Commerce. “For the way the weather was, I think we had a pretty good attendance (for the festival),” Martin said Monday, Aug. 13. Paul Vaillancourt, one of the organizers of GO-Van Buren, said the parade was much longer this year than last and the quality of the entries much higher. The parade included floats from several business and nonprofit organizations, as well as the Parent Farm Family, a mystery Elvis, representatives from the World Acadian Congress, the Van Buren District Secondary School marching band. The parade also featured the Madore Trio Band, and pageant queens. The Aroostook Hospitality Inn showcased the newly crowned "Miss Aroostook Hospitality," in a formal gown, red rubber cleaning gloves and a feather mop, perched on top of a red Corvette. She was perhaps one of the crowd favorites as cheers went out from parade watchers as she passed by. The parade also included three "grosse tetes" or big heads, each designed and painted by parade organizer Eleanor Varley, 80, from GO-Van Buren. This is Varley's third parade to date, and will also be her last, as she will retire this year from parade organization. This year's parade had 50 units, compared to 40 last year. Though there were no awards, GO-Van Buren actively searched out units that would increase community pride and involve the community, Vaillancourt said. The Van Buren Secondary School band also showed off its "newly found" band uniforms which had been lost for a number of years. Parade Grand Marshals were Marie-Paul and Dan Lapointe, selected for their long service in revitalizing the community.