WATERVILLE — Victoria Green had never been to the Taste of Waterville before, but she liked what she had seen by a little after noon Wednesday, shortly after The Bite — featuring casual fare on Appleton Street — had started.

“So far, so good,” she said, standing by the pony ride station on the Concourse. “It’s great.”

The Waterville resident was one of close to 10,000 people who crowded downtown Wednesday for the 24th annual Taste of Waterville, an all-day entertainment, music and food festival known for its showcasing of food from local restaurants.

As the Taste approaches its 25th year, it featured its largest array ever of restaurant vendors Wednesday and is continuing to make strides toward its goal of attracting area residents to get to know and visit downtown businesses and local restaurants, said Christian Savage, programs director for the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce, which puts on the event.

“We really want the downtown and the businesses to capitalize on it, and a lot of people do a great job at that,” Savage said. “This year we really engaged with them early, and I think the result has been really good exposure for a lot of the restaurants and businesses.”

Thirteen eateries were set up at The Bite, which featured casual fare such as pizza, hamburgers and french fries starting at 11 a.m. Wednesday, as well as another 15 restaurants and businesses set up as food vendors Wednesday evening on Main Street. In addition, a petting zoo, a local art fair, live music and an evening beer garden helped attract people downtown.


“It’s absolutely fabulous for the community,” said Amy Fowler, who works at Holy Cannoli, an Italian delicatessen on Main Street. “Since we started three years ago, the Taste has gotten bigger every year. It’s a big boost in publicity for us and really brings out the community.”

In addition to local restaurants, the Taste also features food prepared by local businesses and nonprofit organizations, such as the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter, which uses the event as a fundraiser; and MaineGeneral Medical Center, which uses it as an educational opportunity — featuring healthful recipes and on-site dietitians — according to organizers.

“We want people to know that healthy food can taste good,” said Shelley Goraj, the hospital’s food services director and a registered dietitian, as people lined up for vegan quinoa stuffed peppers and locally raised chicken.

“This is the biggest year we’ve seen so far, and business has been good,” Goraj said.

At the Bite, the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter sold cotton candy, beef sticks and water at its vendor station. This is the fourth year the shelter has had a presence at the Taste, and it usually raises about $2,000.

“We come here to raise money for the shelter, but also to raise awareness,” said Jen Curry, events communicator for the shelter. The Kennebec Savings Bank sponsors the shelter so it can participate in The Bite without spending money.


“It’s great to see all the local businesses out here together,” said Kelly Rancourt, a credit analyst at the bank.

The Taste had a record number of restaurants participating in the daylong festival, organizers said. Thirteen were present at The Bite, including Cappza’s Pizza, Aroma Joes Coffee, and Stan’s Fries.

On Main Street, Lori Dumont, the owner of the Parsonage House restaurant in Vassalboro, was participating in her first ever Taste. “Every year I always say I’m too busy, but this time I decided just to put myself out there,” she said.

The effort paid off. By about 7 p.m. — two hours before the food portion of the Taste shut down — Dumont had sold out of the seafood and chicken lasagna she was serving.

“It’s the best advertising you could ask for,” she said. “I’m coming back next year — and bringing more food.”

Last year the Taste also featured a four-course, sit-down portion catered by the Heritage House restaurant on Common Street, a signature part of the original Taste that was resurrected in 2013 but that Savage said had not seen growth in ticket sales over the last three years.


“We wanted to focus our energy elsewhere,” he said. “The elegance was nice, but I think what people like about the Taste is the opportunity to visit with their family and friends. It’s hard to keep them seated for a five-course meal.”

For the second year in a row, the Taste also featured an artist’s village set up in Castonguay Square and was timed to coincide with the opening of Common Street Arts’ new space in The Center and an exhibit on the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Jim Decker, a Richmond artist, returned to the event this year to sell his American landscape paintings.

“I think they encourage the art very much,” Decker said. “It’s an artsy community.”

As the festival looks ahead to its 25th anniversary next year, Savage said the Taste is primed to do better than ever, though he said he fielded a number of questions Wednesday regarding the logistics of plans to develop areas of the downtown, including the possibility of adding a dormitory in the Concourse area, by Colby College.

“We’ll worry about it next year,” he said. “The Taste is about the vibrancy of downtown, and if we have to disrupt (construction) for one day, so be it. I’m not sure what exactly it will be yet, but next year for the 25th year it will be something big.”

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239


[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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