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Fiddlehead Festival growing to include tractor parade this year

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Lillian Lake, an organizer for the 2nd nn
Lillian Lake, at right, an organizer for the 2nd annual Maine Fiddlehead Festival to be held on May 4 in Farmington, describes the event at the Farmington selectmen’s meeting Tuesday night. At left is Town Manager Richard Davis and Selectman Dennis Pike.

FARMINGTON – The first annual Fiddlehead Festival proved such a success, organizers are looking to expand the second annual event to include a tractor parade through downtown.

Although a parade permit was not needed, selectmen gave their blessing on having a 45-minute to one hour long lineup of tractors ride through downtown to mark the start of the 2nd Annual Maine Fiddlehead Festival: Local Food Day  set for Saturday, May 4.

The festival is a collaborative effort of many local businesses, organizations and the University of Maine at Farmington with an overall goal of promoting a sustainable local food system in western Maine. Using the little fern sprout as its green mascot, the festival’s organizers sought in that first festival held last spring to celebrate local foods – including the fiddlehead foraging kind – by highlighting local food products, their producers, along with practical application examples and the community’s involvement.

“It was a tremendous success,” said Lillian Lake, a festival organizer. “It forged a cooperative effort with UMF, its students  and an overwhelming response from local businesses.” The festival also gained national attention for the area when it was listed in a USA Today story as one of the 10 best places for foraging fiddleheads.

In the months following the festival, a Food Day conference was held at the Farmington Grange, UMF formed a steering committee to develop a curriculum around sustainable agriculture and is looking into a local food menu for its campus.

Areas identified to help foster a stronger farmer-to-consumer connection are finding processing help, various technical needs, and to aid producers in figuring out how much to produce to meet the area’s needs , Lake said.

Leading up to the next festival are activities, such as a lard rendering, canning and preserving classes; a farmers’ roundtable discussion and a fiddlehead soup cook-off event.

Plans for the daylong festival, to be held in and outside around the Emery Community Arts Center on the UMF campus with keynote speaker John Jemison, a water quality and soil specialist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, and include breakout sessions on permaculture, foraging foods and preserving food. A local foods lunch will be served at the Homestead on Broadway. Children’s activities, vendors including the members of the local farmers’ market, will be on hand at the free event. The festival will conclude with an event held in cooperation with the Farmington Historical Society at the Octagon House at High and Perham streets.

Farmington selectmen enthusiastically gave their support for a tractor parade to kickoff the festival. Plans are that the parade will start at 9 a.m. from the Mallett School, head south on High Street, over on South Street, north on Main, east on Broadway, south on High Street to return to Mallett School. A Color Guard is invited to lead the parade and Sheriff Scott Nichols has offered to help with the event at no cost. The Farmington Police Department was contacted, but indicated it would have to charge a fee to pay for the overtime if its officers were to help out during that time.

“It’s a prudent, cost-saving measure,” said Town Manager Richard Davis said of the cost should the local department need to supply officers and cruisers for the parade.

Selectman Ryan Morgan suggested volunteers be posted along the parade route as a safety measure, which Lake said would be no problem.

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