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Hikers and mountain bikers heading to Nordic Trail Festival

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The Nordic Heritage Center in Presque Isle is gearing up for its annual festival of mountain biking, running and music in the hills of central Aroostook County.

Mountain bikers take a zigzagging route up a slope at the Nordic Heritage Center in Presque Isle during the 2015 Nordic Trail Festival. (Contributed photo)

Mountain bikers take a zigzagging route up a slope at the Nordic Heritage Center in Presque Isle during the 2015 Nordic Trail Festival. (Contributed photo courtesy of Peter Freeman)

The Nordic Heritage Center, home of a 12-mile, four season trail network and lodge, hosts the Nordic Trail Festival July 29 and 30, drawing mountain biking and trail enthusiasts locally and from around Maine and New Brunswick, Canada.

“It’s just kind of a celebration of the facility and the trails, and trying to give people the same experience we have as members of the club and community,” said Chad McPherson, who’s helping organize the festival with the volunteer-run Nordic Heritage Center.

Mountain bikers have held informal summer races at the the Nordic Heritage Center and the adjacent Quoggy Jo Ski Hill since the mid-2000s and the NHC has held the festival since 2010, said McPherson.

The event includes six-hour races for bikers and runners following courses that loop through the trail system. The bike course is an 8-mile loop winding its way over the main mountain at the Nordic Heritage Center, with gradually zig-zagging descents on the western ridge. The running loop is 3.1 miles through central and eastern trails, including the gently rolling Tom’s Return Trail.

“The idea is that you get six hours to compete or play, to experience the trail system,” said McPherson. “You can really just take it easy, do a lap if you want and have a hotdog and beer in-between.”

There will also be youth and adult biathlon races, live music from three Maine bands, a beer vendor and two mobile food vendors, Rolling Fatties, an outfit from Kingfield specializing in burritos, and Blaze, a wood-fired barbecue and pizza vendor from Bar Harbor.

The festival kicks off Friday with a downhill mountain bike race at Quoggy Jo Ski Hill, which hosts a barbecue that evening at its clubhouse.

The Nordic Heritage Center opens its grounds to camping for the festival, free for racers (who pay a fee) and $5 per person per night for other visitors.

Throughout the summer and fall the Nordic Heritage Center also hosts group mountain bike rides Monday’s and Wednesday’s at 6 p.m.

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