UMaine Hutchinson presents Best of the Best

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

Chef Cooper of Rio’s Spiked Cafe, rated Best Chef, right, with his wife Hannah to his right, offers samples of his unique fare from the Searsport Restaurant, rated Best New Business. Photo by Carolyn Zachary

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.

Belfast Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Dorothy Havey stands behind a literature table at the Waldo County Best of the Best Gala and Business Showcase on May 25. Photo by Michelle Christian

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.

A visitor examines earrings May 25 at the Coyote Moon exhibition, which took top spots for best clothing store and best gift store. Looking up are Tabitha Lowe, left, and Lisa Fagin. Photo by Carolyn Zachary

The KSW Federal Credit Union ranked third among banks and credit unions in Waldo County, and Belfast branch manager Bill Crawford ranked second among bankers. Photo by Michelle Christian

Ed Lajoie, left, and Mike Marshall at the table at Northport Golf Club on May 25, offering two rounds of 18 holes as door prizes. The Northport Club was ranked first among golf courses. Photo by Carolyn Zachary

Dairy Queen representatives at their show. Dairy Queen ranked third among local ice cream suppliers. Photo by Michelle Christian

Camrie and Greg Hodgeman earned top marks for their two businesses: Paws and Claws for pet grooming and Canine Country Club for pet boarding. Photo by Michelle Christian

Brittany Pinkham behind the table at the Rip Tide Smoke Shop, voted Business of the Year in 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022. Photo by Carolyn Zachary

Presentation of BCOPE at the Best of the Best gala and Business Showcase on May 25. BCOPE Alternative Secondary School was voted first in Alternative and Continuing Education. Photo by Michelle Christian

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