BELFAST — Visitor and attendee numbers were down at the first Best of the Best Gala and Business Showcase since the pandemic lockdown, but there was no dampening of enthusiasm in the halls of the University of Maine Hutchinson Center on May 25.
Chef Cooper of Rio’s Spiked Cafe, 357 W. Main St, Searsport, greeted visitors in the entrance area with a sampling of his fusion of French, European and Southern American cuisine – a taste sensation involving
mussels, tasso ham, avocado cream and its little touches. Cooper was voted top chef, while Rio mixologist John Sullivan won best margarita and placed second for best martini, and the restaurant overall was voted best new business in the 16th vote. annual for the best of the best in Waldo County.
The winners with their displays and gifts filled the large center room at the end of the hall. A total of 39 area businesses and organizations were in attendance with posters, handouts, goodie bags, food and their framed Best of the Best awards – some for several years.
Dorothy Havey, executive director of the Belfast Area Chamber of Commerce, said there were 39 exhibitors this year, down from the usual 75, and overall attendance was below the pre-COVID norm. There were eight items in the silent auction held online as part of the event; Over the past few years, the large entrance area has had several tables covered in auction items.
Heidi Brown of the Republican Journal/Village Soup publicity team said, “It was a small turnout, but good for our first year back.”
Anticipating a drop in attendance this year, Havey said advertising revenue from the Republican Journal’s Best of the Best Winners insert would go to the Hutchinson Center, along with proceeds from the silent auction. The Republican Journal and Village Soup (both part of MaineStay Media) sponsored the scholarship, along with the Belfast Area Chamber of Commerce and the University of Maine Hutchinson Center.
The final tally of funds raised for Hutchinson Center scholarships was not yet available.
Senator King interviews Joy Asuncion, Ambassador of the National Military Women’s Memorial of Maine and Navy Veteran