WATERVILLE — Jake Connolly walked away from the Unity College booth Wednesday at the Taste of Waterville clutching an Impossible Burger, took a giant bite and said it was awesome.

“It’s delicious,” said Connolly, 40, of Winslow. “It actually tastes like a real burger. I think for anyone trying to be vegetarian or vegan, this is one of the tough things to do in the summer is find a burger that tastes good. I endorse it. Two thumbs up.”

Unity College, the first institution of higher education in the country to divest its fossil fuel investments, was at the Taste for the first time, touting the plant-based burger and challenging festival-goers to see if they could detect the difference between the Impossible Burger and one made with meat.

As a Waterville resident who attends the annual Taste, Unity’s catering manager, Becky Sugden, got the idea for bringing the Impossible Burger to the event.

“They served them in the dining hall this last semester, and for me it clicked because it takes so much less energy and land and water to make these burgers,” said Sugden, sister to both Waterville Library Director Sarah Sugden and former City Councilor Eliza Sugden. “People can get all the same proteins and experience but in a sustainable way.”

The burgers, created by Impossible Foods in California, are made with wheat protein, coconut oil, potato protein and other ingredients and use about one-twentieth of the land and a fourth of the water used to produce a burger made from beef, according to Unity officials. The burger also produces one-eighth of the greenhouse gas emissions produced by making an average beef burger.

Unity Catering caters weddings, meetings, barbecues and other events. On Wednesday it also sold salads made with greens and vegetables from the McKay Farm and Research Station, Maine-made Fox Family Chips, Maine Root sodas and aquafaba meringue cookies.

Unity hosted one of multiple booths at The Bite part of the Taste, which is held on The Concourse and precedes the large-scale outdoor dining event on Main Street. The event typically draws thousands of people to the city to eat, listen to live music, shop and connect with friends.

Presented by the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by many area businesses and organizations, the all-day and into-the-evening Taste includes children’s activities, dance demonstrations, a beer garden, annual meatball eating contest and more. Vendors on The Concourse sold French fries, jewelry, clothing, soft pretzels, fudge, antiques, natural foods, fried dough, Thai ice cream rolls and other items. Businesses, hospitals and other health care organizations handed out information, and Sustain Mid-Maine Coalition hosted recycling and waste stations.

Linda Woods, coordinator of Sustain Mid-Maine, said Colby College students and a city custodian would go through all the recycling and waste on Thursday to make sure none of the refuse was contaminated.

“We are collecting all the organics and taking them to the Bragg Farm, Rainbow Valley, in Sidney,” Woods said. “We have 28 volunteers on the street from 11 o’clock ’til 9 p.m.”

Woods said Sustain Mid-Maine — which promotes alternative energy resources and transportation systems, increased energy conservation initiatives, use of local foods and educational and recycling opportunities — survives on grants and donations received from its website, and the organization is now desperately out of money.

“We’ve been sucking fumes,” she said. “We are applying for grants.”

Festivalgoers strolled along The Concourse, munching on snacks, or sat at round tables in Haines Park under shade trees eating their lunches. A light breeze served as balm to an otherwise humid afternoon where temperatures hovered in the 80s.

Snow Pond Community Music School was handing out literature in the children’s area, where kids played on an inflatable obstacle course and scrambled around in a bounce house. Gus Graham, 10, of Waterville, was strapped in a harness, swinging up and down on The Bungee Jump as his mother, Jess Graham, watched.

“It’s awesome,” Gus exclaimed as he bounced in his orange stocking feet. “Going, going gone!”

Jess Graham said Gus and his sister, Penny, 8, missed going on The Bungee Jump last summer because the line to get in was so long and they were eager to get to it this year.

“They’ve been looking forward to it all year — this and fried dough — and they honestly don’t care what else they do,” Jess Graham said.

Penny Graham characterized The Bungee Jump as “the most amazing thing in the whole, entire world.”

“It was like jumping into the trees and tumbling back,” she said. “It feels like you will get seriously hurt but you never get hurt.”

The Bungee Jump is owned by Adventure Climbing, of Waterville, which rents out such activities to festivals and business events.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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