HOULTON, Maine — Although the potato fields aren’t as plentiful as they were 50 years ago, Houlton’s annual Potato Feast Days celebration is still a crowd-pleaser for young and old.
Evidence of its popularity was on display Saturday as hundreds of people flocked to downtown Market Square and to Community Park for the 51st annual celebration to laud the area’s most famous cash crop.
“We’ve had a wonderful day,” Lori Weston, executive director of the Greater Houlton Chamber of Commerce, said Saturday afternoon. “There are a lot of people in town.”
When the event was first launched in 1959, farmers and potato fields abounded, and the fete was the last big celebration in the area before growers started harvesting. Although the celebration has changed over the years, many of the original activities are still in place.
On Saturday morning, children gathered in Monument Park for the customary games, including potato sack races, the hot potato game and the Mr. Potato Head decorating contest.
“We had 17 entrants in the decorating contest, which is the most we’ve ever had,” Weston said. “The children’s games went over really well. The kids had a lot of fun.”
Cooks got to take part in the potato salad contest, and women vied for the title of best peeler during the ladies’ potato-peeling contest.
Monument Park also was the location of the annual arts and crafts fair, which featured nearly two dozen vendors selling everything from candles and carving knives to baseball cards and bed frames.
Kim Travis of Houlton was shopping at the fair with two friends. Within 10 minutes of arriving at the park, she had purchased two candles, a handmade pillow and a wreath.
“I love the craft shows,” she said. “They have two or three a year here, and I always come.
“It’s nice to give a gift to someone and pretend you made it,” she added with a laugh.
Richard Lane Sr. of Island Falls was manning a booth at the craft fair. He usually comes every year, he said Saturday, selling baseball cards, pocket knives and other sports memorabilia.
“Business has been fair,” he said between customers. “I’ve had a lot of lookers.”
Dylan Tucker, 9, of Presque Isle was at the fair with his mother and three brothers. He was in town for All-Cylinders Saturday, a daylong event in Community Park. Sponsored by the Houlton Fair Association, it included a car and motorcycle show, the Rave X flying-snowmobile jumping show, stunt motorcycles and more.
Tucker said he and his brothers were looking for baseball cards before heading back to Community Park.
“I love the stuff going on in the park,” said Tucker. “It’s really neat they added it this year. I’ve been to the Potato Feast Days before, but I’ve never seen the racing and stuff.”
All-Cylinders Saturday was a new edition to the celebration this year, drawing a crowd to Community Park late Saturday afternoon.
Potato Feast Days wrapped up Sunday with the Potato Feast Road Rally at the Millar Civic Center.