McCain Foods, one of Aroostook County's largest employers, lights up the night with this semi and trailer decked out in lights during the Presque Isle Light Parade. (Courtesy Andrea Powers)
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Of all the places I have lived, Aroostook does the holiday season the best. Beginning in late October, every weekend and almost every day has an event or activity, open to the public, that helps us get in a joyful mood.

Before we moved here, people were worried that we would have nothing to do. Maybe that’s because we’re so far north, or maybe because The County is mostly woods and fields, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Beginning in late October, rarely a week goes by that there is not something to do in The County. Sometimes keeping up with them is hard.   

The frost barely has settled on the pumpkins before advertising for the season’s events begin showing up on the local television station, in the papers, and as flyers on supermarket and post office bulletin boards. Locals block off dates on their calendars and hit events as they can, sometimes two or three every weekend, and even a few during each week. 

This year’s holiday season opened Oct. 28 with the Caribou Crafts Fair, Aroostook’s oldest and largest crafts fair, with 140 exhibitors offering exquisite creations at Caribou High School. The crowd is huge, with 10,000 attendees from around the state, other states and neighboring Canada to gather up the goodies.

For more than 40 years, whether searching for baked goods or fine paintings, homemade mittens or fragrant soaps, the fair offers something to please everyone.  There is so much to consider, it usually takes two days to visit all the vendors. 

A week later, Limestone holds its Holiday Craft Fair; there’s the Northern Maine Chamber Society’s fall concert at the University of Maine at Presque Isle; the County Christmas Market at the Northeastland Hotel, also in Presque Isle, and school chorus and band concerts fill up days during the week, along with shows at the Caribou Performing Arts Center.

The closer to Thanksgiving and Christmas, the more numerous the events. Both the local newspapers and the television station run lists of what events are happening. We run from one end of The County to another, often after a fresh coating of snow or in biting cold, but that doesn’t keep people at home. 

Houlton kicks off the season with its annual Light Parade the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and with the help of local business sponsors, the town’s Temple Theater shows free matinees every weekend leading up to Christmas. 

Craft and artisan fairs form the backbone of activities as we ease closer to the holidays.

Ashland has several fairs, one of the most popular sponsored by the Tilikum Eastern Star. At the top of Aroostook, the second oldest craft fair – 39 years – opens in Fort Kent, with 120 vendors offering food products and baked goods, goods, candies and jams, handcrafted hats and mittens, home and holiday furnishings and decor, wood-crafted items, skin care products, toys, games and much more. It’s easily possible to do all your Christmas shopping there. 

Things really ramp up on the first Saturday of December. This year there were craft fairs at the Sargent Family Center in Presque Isle, sponsored by the Central Aroostook Chamber of Commerce; in nearby Easton, the Holiday Fair boasts 50 vendors offering their homemade and handcrafted wares. There’s everything from trolls to wreaths, and shoppers make their way there to browse. Again, this year, Northern Maine Community College hosted the sixth annual Festival of Trees in its gym, with all proceeds going to the St. Apollonia Dental Clinic.

As the day winds down, trucks and trailers and people begin converging on the large parking lot on North Street in Presque Isle for the annual Christmas Light Parade. Businesses and civic groups and ordinary citizens join in the spirit of the season and decorate vehicles ranging from family cars to huge semi-trucks for the march down Main Street. Hundreds of people line the street in freezing temperatures to admire and cheer on the decorated vehicles as they inch down the nearly two-mile length of Main Street to the University of Maine at Presque Isle.  

While The County may be far from the bustle of Portland and Bangor, it doesn’t lack in holiday spirit. There are great events, great food, great lodging, and great people who know what holiday spirit really is. Come join us.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!