St. John Valley

Ploye Festival will rejoin Muskie Derby tournament in Fort Kent

FORT KENT, Maine — Two time-honored northern Maine traditions, catching giant fish and cooking up giant ployes, will be reunited when the Greater Fort Kent Area Chamber of Commerce Ploye Festival returns in conjunction with the Fort Kent International Muskie Derby in August.

Organizers canceled the Ploye Festival last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, although the Muskie Derby was held.

“Step by step, we are coming back to some semblance of normal again which is really encouraging,” Chamber executive director Dona Saucier said. “This is the first large St. John Valley Community event we will be hosting since the COVID restrictions started lifting, so we are looking forward to communities and families and friends gathering and bringing more positive energy and increased momentum back into this area.”

The most popular Ploye Festival event, the cooking of the giant ploye by Bouchard Family Farm, is a go, although it will take place at Lonesome Pine Trails this year rather than at Riverside Park. 

Also planned for the Ploye Festival are a ploye eating contest, craft fair and live street music. 

“There’s a couple little things up in the air still, but in the next week we should have a solidified schedule,” Saucier said. 

“It’s just a wonderful time of regrouping and getting together as a community,” Saucier added. “We’ve all been so detached in our own little bubbles for the past year or so. Having this opportunity to reconnect with one another is just what we need.” 

With just the St. John River and an International Bridge separating the communities of Fort Kent and Clair, New Brunswick, the Ploye Festival and Muskie Derby is often a draw for Canadian residents.

“We hope that we can also be able to share this camaraderie with our friends across the border as well — fingers crossed,” Saucier said.

Border crossing regulations between the United States and Canada remain uncertain. 

The United States and Canada restricted non-essential travel across the U.S.-Canada land borders at the height of the pandemic in March 2020. 

On Thursday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that vaccinated U.S. Citizens will be allowed into Canada for non-essential travel around mid-August if current vaccination and public health rates continue. 

The Muskie Derby will begin at 9 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 13, and the scales will be open until Sunday, Aug. 15, at 5 p.m., with an awards ceremony to follow at UP North Outdoors on Main Street in Fort Kent.

The St. John River and all tributaries of the river are open to fishing during the derby.

Sean Cabaniss of Pittsfield reeled in the 2020 tournament’s winning muskie, a 46-inch fish weighing 22.31 pounds. 

“It’s so nice to see we are resuming our events and activities in our community,” Fort Kent town manager Suzie Paradis said. “The Muskie Derby attracts people from thousands of miles away to compete and enjoy all that Fort Kent has to offer.”

Register for the Muskie Derby online or in person at S.W. Collins Outdoors/Building Supply. 

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