Maine Artisan Bread Fair showcases local grain movement in Skowhegan

SKOWHEGAN — Bread, beer, tacos and pizza. What more could a person ask for on a beautiful summer day?

That’s what people were treated to Saturday at the annual Artisan Bread Festival at the Skowhegan fairgrounds, the culmination of the regular Kneading Conference hosted by the Maine Grain Alliance, a local nonprofit organization that promotes using local grains. More than 60 vendors had their goods up for sale, including finely made brioche buns and craft olive oil, while outdoor ovens churned out pizza after pizza.

Tristan Noyes, executive director of the Maine Grain Alliance, said the fair had exceeded the group’s expectations by mid-afternoon Saturday. While organizers were expecting about 3,000 to turn out for the free event at the fairgrounds, by early afternoon he said that number would likely be eclipsed.

And those attending couldn’t have asked for a better day, with temperature in the mid-70s and the sun shining.

“It’s been really great,” Noyes said.

The fair traditionally brings people from all over Maine and other parts of New England together to see demonstrations and learn about and sample locally sourced products, and the two-day conference preceding it showcases lessons of local farmers, millers, bakers, maltsters and others.

“It’s a space they can showcase the amazing things they’re doing,” Noyes said.

Founded in 2010 as a lecture on food, the festival has grown to take over much of the fairgrounds, including Constitution Hall. By mid-afternoon, baker Claudia Duschenes was closing up her booth. Even though the event was scheduled to last until 3 p.m., she’d completely run out of baked goods with over an hour and a half remaining.

“I could not keep up,” she said, closing down her booth.

Duschenes, who is from Vermont, said she has come to the conference in the past, but not every year. All the baked goods she had sold that day, such as pretzels and croissants, were produced during the conference. She said the…

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