MADAWASKA, Maine — From local foods to music to the latest in green technology, there was something for everyone this weekend at the annual Top ’O Maine Trade Show.
“It’s shaping up to be a very good weekend,” Steve Hughes, Greater Madawaska Chamber of Commerce executive director, said Saturday afternoon. “There’s a really good mix of old and new vendors.”
Sixty-one businesses set up shop in the town’s multipurpose building, 23 of them first-timers at the show, Hughes said.
“There is really great word-of-mouth advertising about this trade show,” Hughes said. “Each of our vendors really gets something out of it.”
Sunny weather may have kept the crowds down in numbers over last year for Saturday, but the ladies with Maine Agri-Women were working double-time to keep up with demand for their County-produced French fries and poutine — that uniquely French Canadian dish of French-fried potatoes, cheese and gravy.
“You have to have County potatoes,” Sandra Durepo of Fort Fairfield said. “They’re the best.”
The group was selling the food as part of its annual fundraiser for scholarships given to two Aroostook County high school seniors annually on their way to university agriculture-related degree programs.
At the same time, the group promotes its gender’s contribution to farming.
“We present the female side of farming,” Durepo said. “We do everything — we help plant, rack potatoes, sell the products, keep the books and whatever else needs to be done.”
Durepo, now retired, admits farming is a hard lifestyle, but one she would not trade.
“Farming is a wonderful life — a hard life, but wonderful,” she said. “Life itself is hard, but as long as you love what you are doing, it makes it easier.”
Nearby, the radio at the Acadian Festival’s booth was playing the new “Gagnon Family Reunion Song” in honor of this year’s featured family.
“I’m a long-distance Gagnon on my mother’s side,” Benita Ouellette said.
Ouellette, Marilyn Ouellette and Lena Corriveau make up the local troupe Rapture and are the co-authors of the family song.
“We felt privileged, honored and excited to have been asked to write that song,” Benita Ouellette said. “And a little scared, too.”
“We didn’t know what we were getting into,” Marilyn Ouellette said. “But we studied the history of the Gagnon family and that gave us some ideas.”
Throughout the day children clambered on displays of tractors, trucks and all-terrain vehicles, while their parents discussed alternative energy concepts, building ideas, forestry practices and the latest in medical care with vendors from around Aroostook County and Maine.
“It’s exciting to see the new vendors and nice to see the old ones who are so loyal keep coming back,” Hughes said.