A bundle of energy with snappy hazel eyes and a contagious smile, Executive Director Kristina Cannon is a master of multi-tasking at Main Street Skowhegan.

Whether it is polishing previous projects, such as River Fest or Run of River, or taking on new plans —like the Skowhegan Craft Brew Festival or the more recent Moose Festival— they all flourish under her enthusiasm.

A country girl at heart, the 33-year-old Cannon admits that agriculture is her first love. She grew up as part of a farm family on the fertile land alongside the Kennebec River in North Anson. The Williams farm traces its roots back to the early 1900s, to her grandfather’s grandmother. Her grandparents, Harvey and Jean Williams, parents Richard and Lorelei Williams, and Uncle Andy Williams continue to run it.

It’s a heritage she’s very proud of, and one she says goes hand-in-hand with all she hopes to accomplish as part of the busy organization where she began her leadership role in September 2015.

“It’s Skowhegan’s brand, these natural resources, this beautiful river,” Cannon said. “I grew up on a farm; our future revolves around the river, and recreation is a piece of all that.”

Cannon believes recreation and local agriculture offer a good balance “to attract more people to the region, and not just as tourists, but as new residents.”
Just two months shy of her three-year hiring anniversary date, her accomplishments already are many and varied in one of the 10 remaining accredited Main Street programs in the state.

Cannon’s footprint is firmly planted in the third annual Skowhegan Craft Brew Festival, which “broke the thousand-person mark the second year,” said Matt DuBois, president of Main Street Skowhegan and a co-owner of The Bankery and Skowhegan Fleuriste & Formal Wear.

The Brew Festival is not about getting drunk, Cannon said, but about craft brewers in Maine, the business it creates, sampling the wares, food vendors and getting together in the spirit of friendship and good will.

DuBois said Cannon is the driving force behind Main Street’s successes in Skowhegan.
“She works very hard, is very dedicated to our community, and has the passion to move our community forward,” he said.

That Midas touch and penchant for hard work is also what helped deliver the success of the Moose Festival last month in Skowhegan. Cannon said Selectman Soren Siren and Businesswoman Amanda White approached her about the Moose Lottery in Skowhegan and how to celebrate it.

Siren said a great group of people helped make it happen, but Cannon was the glue that pulled it together.
“She’s the one who really made it happen. We raised the bar and shot over the top of it,” said Siren, who noted that members of the Skowhegan State Fair Association credited Cannon for her efforts. “(They) were super impressed with how Cannon managed the whole thing.”

Cannon said it’s important to take on every task with a strong belief in its outcome.
“My motto is, ‘Go big or go home.’ I strongly believe if you’re going to do something, you do it well,” she said.

So she drafted a 12-page proposal to Commissioner Woodcock at Inland Fisheries &Wildlife and the outcome was a Moose Festival that drew record attendance.
“It drew a completely different group of people; they came out in droves to help. Dozens and dozens of volunteers,” said Cannon, who devoted at least 130 hours to the project.
Cannon has invested that same kind of energy in the Run of River project, a white water park plan initiated by Road Commissioner Gregory Dore and a group of supporters in 2004.
“We had gone as far as I knew how,” Dore said. “She knows how to go find funding. She’s right full of energy. That helps. She is doing an excellent job moving this project along.
“She’s such an asset to Skowhegan. Look at the job she did with the Moose Festival,” Dore added. “It’s a much better town because of her.”
Cannon said she was a little skeptical of the Run of River project at first, then decided to jump in with both feet, and an economic impact study was one of the first steps. Last summer, a visit to other water parks in Colorado, accompanied by Town Manager Christine Almond, capped off her resolve.

“I’m 200 percent sold now; Run of River is going to transform and revitalize Skowhegan,” she said.. Recently, Cannon’s networking strength paid dividends when a philanthropist donated $10,000 through a Maine Community Foundation donor-advised fund to pay for a fundraising consultant.

Meanwhile, Cannon credited others for laying a good foundation for an agricultural hub before she even arrived in Skowhegan. She said people like Amber Lambke and young local farmers have taken giant strides in recent years to set the stage. Lambke started a Kneading Conference highlighting bread in 2007 and also co-founded Maine Grain Alliance and the Somerset Grist Mill, which produces organic flour and oats.

Cannon brings to the table nine years of experience in the marketing communications field, having worked at a Boston advertising agency and most recently in the communications office at Colby College.

She graduated magna cum laude from Emerson College with a bachelor’s in marketing communications, and earned a master’s degree in marketing from Southern New Hampshire University. She was awarded a 2011 Service Industry Advertising Gold Award and was named a CASE (Council for Advancement and Support of Education) 2013-14 SimpsonScarborough Scholar, an accolade recognizing young marketing professionals in higher education.

One of several internships was at one of the breweries in Boston, which she said was very helpful with organizing the Brew Festival in Skowhegan.
Cannon’s farm roots were never very far from the surface, even to her early choice of an agricultural college at the University of Connecticut.
“Whenever I got homesick, I would go over and hang out with the cows,” she said.

Even as a student at Carrabec High School in North Anson, she never strayed far from the farm, except to play soccer, basketball and soft ball.
“In junior high, I start milking the cows with Mom and Dad on the weekends,” she said. “That is a lifestyle that is very hard. When it’s 2 a.m. and 30 below, you have to put your hands on the udders to keep them warm. It’s a harsh lifestyle. It gives you work ethic like nobody’s business.”

She can still feel the pull of the farm; she lives only a mile away today.
“Part of me wishes I could be more involved with the farm; I needed to go somewhere and find my own way, but the farm holds a place in my heart that is a huge part of who I am.”
Even her “spare time” hobbies are tied into who she is and how she views life.

She has taken up paddle boarding, and one Friday night a few weeks ago gathered up 30 people from all over the state for an excursion on the Kennebec.
She mountain bikes, cross country skis, trail runs with her two Labrador Retrievers, Gauge and Brackett, and grew up fly fishing. She said she and her husband, John, love to travel and eat, and search out unique restaurants: “We enjoy good food.”

And when the weather is unfit for activity, Cannon admits to being a huge fan of Game of Thrones— and an occasional trashy romance novel: “It helps give the mind a break,” she said with a smile.

“I love my job. It has occurred to me that somehow, it was what I was meant to do,” Cannon said. “Skowhegan has such great potential.”

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