PORTLAND, Maine (February 2, 2021): Maine’s outdoor industry leaders recently gathered to live stream the Maine Outdoor Brands (MOB) Trailblazer Awards Ceremony. The ceremony honored MOB’s Outdoor Innovation, Outdoor Industry Leader of the Year, and Outdoor Brand Collaboration award recipients.
The 2021 award recipients are the Portland Gear Hub’s Bikes for All Mainers program, Back40’s Henry Gilbert, and Maine Island Trail Association + Freedom Boat Club of Maine.
“Maine’s outdoor economy works because of its innovative and entrepreneurial spirit and trailblazing passion,” said Jim Hauptman, MOB Board President. “We are a $3 billion industry made of tremendous people, businesses, and organizations. We hope these awards spark the imaginations of tomorrow’s outdoor industry leaders and entrepreneurs.”
MOB Outdoor Innovation Award – recognizes a brand or organization for an innovative product or service that was successfully brought to market in the last year
Winner: Portland Gear Hub’s Bikes for All Mainers Program in partnership with the Bicycle Coalition of Maine
The Portland Gear Hub’s “Bikes for All Mainers” program, supported by the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, underwent numerous transformations in 2020 to increase efficiencies and ultimately expand their program to get more bicycles in the hands of individuals who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford them. This included a pivot to working with entire families at once to teach both children and parents. As a result, over 90 individuals received a free bicycle, helmet, lock, and lights at the end of the program.
Mount Abram Bike Park – Mount Abram’s launched the first lift-served bicycle park in Maine, in the middle of the pandemic, and enjoyed amazing success while keeping everyone safe.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Face Masks – Within weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic hitting the US, Hyperlite Mountain Gear sprang into action, designing, and mass manufacturing thousands of masks. Of the Face Masks that have been shipped all around the world, 46,500 were distributed across 49 school districts throughout Maine and 100 were donated to the United Way of York County.
Maine Island Trail Association’s Call to Oars – When the pandemic hit in March, the MITA staff launched a campaign that asked boaters to visit and clean up the islands on their own, dubbing the effort “A Call To Oars” – resulting in 533 bags of ocean-borne trash being removed from the islands.
MOB Outdoor Industry Leader of the Year Award – recognizes an individual who’s had an outsized impact on their business or organization and whose actions have demonstrably strengthened Maine’s outdoor recreation industry.
Winner: Henry Gilbert, Founder, Back40
When COVID-19 travel restrictions were put in place, Back40 had to shift to focus on a local market. Henry recognized others were in the same boat and knew the impact could be greater if the industry worked together. He brought the concept for the ‘Adventure Local Maine’ collaborative marketing campaign to MOB and helped bring it to life, engaging dozens of outdoor businesses in the state to participate and help get the word out about where to camp, climb, hike, paddle, bike and more.
Kristina Sabasteanski, Director and Founder of Veterans Adaptive Sports & Training (VAST) at Pineland Farms – Kristina founded VAST in 2012 – “to promote lifelong health and well-being of veterans with disabilities through regular participation in a VAST array of physical activities and sports” and continued to offer VAST programming throughout the pandemic.
Andy Cutko, Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands Director – Andy and the team at the Bureau of Parks and Lands managed a surge in visitation to Maine State Parks this year – welcoming many new campers and park goers for the first time and ensuring COVID-19 safety protocols were in place.
Outdoor Brand Collaboration Award – recognizes brands and/or organizations that have, working together, developed an outstanding product or service in the past year
Winner: Freedom Boat Club of Maine & Maine Island Trail Association
In 2020, Freedom Boat Club of Maine (FBC) partnered with Maine Island Trail Association (MITA). Through the partnership, FBC encouraged its boat club customers to become MITA members, covering the costs for those who expressed interest. FBC also adopted Bangs Island through MITA in 2020. As such, FBC’s staff and customers took on the responsibility of making periodic checks of the island throughout the boating season to help report on the conditions during the visit, remove any existing debris, and made sure visitor use areas were clean and well maintained. This came at a time when visitation to the islands skyrocketed, as people sought safety and solitude from the pandemic.
Outdoor Sports Institute and Main Street Skowhegan – partnering on an initiative, Main Street Skowhegan now leads Skowhegan Outdoors, “to ensure equitable access to the outdoors.” In addition to hosting three activities every week, a gear library is being built to offer equipment locals can borrow for free—currently featuring standup paddleboards the inventory will someday include whitewater kayaks and surfboards for use in the future park at Run of River.
AARP and Bicycle Coalition of Maine – AARP and BCM partnered to create a series of innovative traffic calming safety projects that helped keep pedestrians safer in several communities in Maine this year. The alignment of the AARP mission to serve aging Americans, and the BCM mission of making Maine better for bicycling and walking enabled a promising collaboration that will continue in 2021.
Mainers and Sterling Rope – When Mainers were designing their new winter gloves this year, they wanted to source the very best materials and do it as local as possible. That’s why every pair of Mainers comes complete with pulls from fellow Maine company Sterling Rope. Sterling is a legendary rope manufacturer based in Biddeford whom tens of thousands of climbers, arborists, and rescue professionals around the world trust to keep them safe every day.
About the awards: Maine-based businesses, organizations, or individuals who are involved in the outdoor industry in Maine, helping facilitate outdoor recreation were eligible for the awards. This could include making or selling outdoor gear and equipment, providing outdoor experiences, and inspiring outdoor adventures. After an open call for nominations from the industry, the MOB Board of Directors chose the finalists and winner, who will receive an engraved belt ax from MOB member Brant & Cochran based in South Portland.