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Day 4 – Madawaska to Fort Kent – September 12
“Little Town That Could”
Today’s route will make you dizzy, as it heads south to Long Lake, north through Frenchville, back south through St. Agatha, southwest through Ouellette, and north to New Canada and Fort Kent, our home for two nights. Fort Kent is a vibrant and prosperous community where one can attend pre-kindergarten through 8th grade, graduate from high school, complete a 4-year college degree, AND earn a PhD . . . all within the same block!
Fort Kent is a picturesque town located in Northern Maine on the Canadian Border. Known as the “Little Town That Could,” Fort Kent has a rich heritage in French Canadian background that is instilled in the community. The area is a tourist attraction, with some of the best snowmobiling in the state, excellent ATV trails, 10th Mountain and Lonesome Pine Ski Clubs, and excellent hunting and fishing. The education process is unique in that students can complete Pre-K through PhD within ¼ mile on the same street. The economy is driven by forestry, agriculture, and tourism, with the majority of occupations in sales, management/professional services, health services, farming/forestry, construction, production, and transportation.
Native culture existed before all other cultures and is represented by the native people of the St. John River Valley. The Wesget Sipu people who live here today are dedicated to preserving their native culture and traditions. Fort Kent’s French-speaking cultural origins pre-date – by 50 or more years – the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842, which created the border between current day Maine and Canada. The Acadians and the Quebecquois comprised the French population during the years before a border existed in the region. The Town’s French cultural distinction is still very apparent in many ways, including language and strength of faith and family. The Maine Acadian Archives are located on the University of Maine at Fort Kent campus, and serve as Fort Kent’s cultural center.
In the 19th Century, Maine was the breadbasket of the Northeast. By the 1850s, buckwheat emerged as the grain crop of choice in the St. John Valley, representing 40-45% of all grain production in the area. Buckwheat pancakes, known locally as ployes (rhymes with boys), became a three-meal-per-day staple for Valley families from the 1850s to the 1950s. Ployes are such a rich part of Acadian culture that Fort Kent has celebrated the Ploye Festival every August for the last 16 years, where the featured event is cooking the world’s largest ploye, about 12 feet in diameter. BikeMaine riders are sure to experience delicious ployes while on the ride in September.