For most it’s been looking a lot like Christmas, but for four Rockland, Maine historic inns, it’s beginning to look like pie time! Right about now, the Historic Inns of Rockland, four luxury Midcoast inns, start looking toward National Pie Day and their signature Pies on Parade event.
It all started about ten years ago when the Historic Inns of Rockland gathered in 2004 to brainstorm ways to convince travelers to come to Rockland, Maine in the dead of winter. Knowing that inngoers are also foodies, the group quickly turned to food holidays to provide motivation for a winter getaway. Discovering that the National Pie Council has declared National Pie Day on January 23rd (their President’s birthday!) they knew they had their event. Pies on Parade was born and the group vowed to celebrate it in years thereafter on the closest Sunday to January 23rd.
From its inception, Pies on Parade was conceived to not only be a celebration of pies but to also help those who wanted more of the pie. From its earliest years, the Historic Inns of Rockland designated proceeds from the event to benefit the local Area Interfaith Outreach (AIO)Food Pantry. In later years as the donations grew, the event also raised money for AIO’s Fuel Assistance program too.
Initially, Pies on Parade included tastings and tours of the six Historic Inns of Rockland. In 2005 (the first Pies on Parade Tour) innkeepers baked about 50 pies to insure that hungry pie tasters would have the opportunity to taste plenty of pies. While the smells of freshly baked pies filled the inns that first year, the blizzard of the century brought howling winds, treacherous road conditions and teeming snow on the day of the big event. Everything along Maine’s coast was closed or cancelled, but as Cheryl Michaelsen, Berry Manor Inn co-owner said, “We’ve got 50 pies baked and ready to be eaten; the Pie Tour will go on!”. Surprisingly close to 50 people showed up and made their way through the weather to the Berry Manor Inn, LimeRock Inn, Old Granite Inn (now the Granite Inn), Captain Lindsey House, Waterman Inn & Gardens and the Lakeside Inn. Looking back in hindsight, Cheryl loves to remember that while they were disappointed not to sell more tickets, she loved telling guests “Don’t take a slice of pie, take the whole pie!” In years thereafter, the Historic Inns of Rockland were careful to stipulate that the event would be held “snow or shine”!
Thankfully in subsequent years, Pies on Parade never had to contend with blizzards again. The only storm that the event faced was a storm of interest from media and pie lovers. In the second year ticket sales increased by seven times the first year. In third and fourth years of the event, ticket sales remained strong, taking a sharp increase after the 5th annual Pies on Parade in 2009 when new venues were added. That was the year a very generous anonymous donor (who also enjoyed Pies on Parade) matched the donation made by Historic Inns of Rockland to AIO Food Pantry, netting a $10,000 donation. Each year as ticket sales grew, the donation to the AIO Food Pantry also increased allowing the organization to feed 100 hungry Maine families for a year when donations from Historic Inns of Rockland were matched with grants from other organizations. Today, Pies on Parade continues to be the AIO Food Pantry’s largest fundraising event of the year.
The influence of the Berry Manor Pie Moms should not be underestimated when considering how they helped to grow the event. While pies are served 365 days a year at Berry Manor Inn, the mothers of owners Cheryl Michaelsen and Mike LaPosta were recruited into the pie-making team. Often quibbling over who makes the better pie, their tongue-in-cheek rivalry quickly soured once the media learned of the pie making team. Joined by a friend of both, the pie Moms went up against Bobby Flay in a Pie Throwdown and appeared with Mike Rowe of World’s Dirtiest Jobs making a blueberry pie in the Berry Manor’s Kitchen. Their photo appeared in many an article and soon their faces became a moniker for the Pie Tour. The Pie Moms have since retired, but two of the three will return for the 10th Annual Pie Tour, to make an appearance as Pie-celebs.
In the event’s fifth year the Historic Inns of Rockland decided to expand the tour to include venues outside the inns. Restaurants, spas and shops quickly jumped on board, anxious to join the pie festivities. Since that time, more than 20 additional venues have joined the Historic Inns of Rockland in the tour each year, expanding the pie offerings to include pizza pies, Shepherd’s Pie, Whoopee Pies, meat and seafood pies, even healthy pies. All Aboard Trolley has joined in the fun to provide trolley service so pie aficionados wouldn’t have to brave the cold on foot. Pies on Parade has evolved to become a Rockland community event. While Historic Inns of Rockland still coordinate the event, more than 21 additional businesses have jumped on board to support and participate this year.
But the best news of all is the outcome. To date the event has raised nearly $65,000 in its tenth year of tenure, and the group hopes to hit the $100,000 total donation mark with the 10th annual pie tour. One hundred percent of the proceeds from ticket sales are donated to the AIO Food Pantry. Each venue donates the supplies and time to make more than 55 varieties of pie, serving up more than 12,000 pieces of pie during each tour.
To help with the fundraising efforts, a new event has been introduced this year. A Pie Celebration taking place at Trackside Station in Rockland on Saturday, January 25, 4-6pm will add to the pie-citement of the weekend. The restaurant’s motto “where food and fun collide” will be especially true on Saturday as a silent auction, complete with getaways and plenty of gift certificates to restaurants, shops and more, plus food, libation and plenty of pie-cheer will be in store. This event is free and all pie-revelers are encouraged to attend and extend their pie-bration to Saturday too.
Due to the size of the inns and venues, ticket sales are limited to 550 and ticket sales are presently underway. Visit http://www.historicinnsofrockland.com/pies-on-parade/ for full information on Pies on Parade and lodging packages including tickets to the tour or call 1-877-ROC-INNS (877-762-4667) or locally 207-596-6611 to reserve ahead.