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Derby, Ploye Festival return to the St. John Valley

FORT KENT, Maine — Anglers and ploye lovers are once again expected to flock to Fort Kent and the St. John Valley this summer when the International Muskie Derby and Ploye Festival arrive next month.

The 24th Annual Ploye Festival kicks off Friday, Aug. 11, with a large craft fair at the Lions Pavilion at Riverside Park. Other food vendors and community groups are expected to set up stands around town.

TALLYING THE FISH during the International Muskie Derby last year in Fort Kent.
(SJVT File Photo/Don Eno)

Bouchard Family Farms will create the world’s biggest ploye, also on Friday. Spectators can watch the giant charcoal fired griddle being set up at Riverside Park and then get a taste of the massive buckwheat pancake once it is done.

Entertainment in Fort Kent Friday will include Tennessee Haze performing at Bee Jay’s Tavern and a beer garden at Walker’s Pub. Fireworks will light the sky Friday night, launched from Clair, New Brunswick, along the shore of the St. John River.

Friday is also opening day of the muskie fishing tournament. The derby event begins at 9 a.m. Friday and runs through 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Now in its 13th year, the derby purse includes $10,000 cash for the winners and additional money and prizes for other contacts. The angler who breaks the current state record for muskie will win a new pickup truck, courtesy of Pelletier Motors in Fort Kent.

“It gets pretty exciting in the days leading up to it,” said Derby chair Dennis Cyr of Fort ent. When the derby headquarters tents go up and anglers arrive in town, with boats in tow, the excitement picks up, he said.

A tractor pull event is scheduled for Saturday, Aug 12, as part of the festival. Festival also entertainment will include live music at Riverside from The Bethel Band.

Derby weigh stations this year will be in Clair, Grand Isle and Fort Kent. Tournament waters include St. John River west of Grand Falls and all of its tributaries. Cyr said that volunteers are still need to help at the derby central tent.

The winning fish will be announced Sunday, after the 5 p.m. weigh station closing time at derby central, located near S.W. Collins hardware store.

The derby also includes bass categories. Fishing for bass and contestants in those categories have grown in numbers in the past few years, Cyr said. He added that feedback from state fisheries giologists have indicated the St. John River and its tributaries offer some of Maine’s best smallmouth bass angling.

There was talk a couple of years ago about hosting the Ploye Festival and fishing derby at different times of the summer, so that residents and tourists could have things to do throughout the summer.

However, reaction to that idea prompted chamber leaders to drop it, according to Dona Saucier, the group’s executive director.

“The community has pretty much told us to keep them together,” Saucier said.

Cyr commented that the weekend has proven to be among the most successful for local organizations, such as the Rotary Club, that set up food booths throughout the weekend.

Find additional information about the fishing derby at http://www.fortkent-muskie.com/. The Ploye Festival schedule is not yet finalized, but additional information is available at http://www.fortkentchamber.com/.

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