Hundreds of foster parents, foster children and local adoptive families turned out at Fort Knox Saturday, May 19, for Maine Foster Family Day, an event that featured many kid-friendly attractions such as clowns, a bounce house and a cast of characters from the Star Wars films.

Fort Knox Executive Director Leon Seymour said the event has grown exponentially from year-to-year, with statewide media accounts reporting about 100 people showing up for the statewide celebration of foster families back in 2010 compared to the estimated 500 who attended this year.

Barbara Ford, President of Maine Adoptive and Foster Families Inc., said Saturday’s gathering marked the ninth year for what is known across the country as blue ribbon events, which are aimed at giving thanks to the people who make a differences in the lives of foster children, some of whom come from backgrounds of neglect and abuse.

“Maine’s is the largest blue ribbon event in the country,” said Ford.

Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew was also on hand for Saturday’s festivities, mingling with foster and adoptive families and enjoying the attractions of the day, such as the Planet Pan Steel Band that performed on the grounds near the Visitor and Education Center.

“What a beautiful place to have this event, and what a great opportunity this is to thank all of these families,” she said.

Ford said Maine Foster Family Care Day would not be possible without the generosity of local organizations and businesses that donate goods, services and entertainment for the day, Ford said.

“It’s amazing the amount of people who come together for this,” said Ford. “It’s not something our organization is funded for.”

Some of the local businesses that made donations for Saturday’s event include the Maine Jump, Sam’s Club, Hannaford’s and Home Depot. The Shriners of Maine sent in a couple of clowns to make balloon animals for the children, and the fort also hosted familiar characters from the Star Wars movies, including an army of Storm Troopers and one of the series’ more famous droids, R2-D2.

Mayhew and Ford said Maine has approximately 1,500 foster children in its care, and the number of available foster homes has decreased in recent years. Aside from bringing foster and adoptive families together for a day of activities, food and music, Saturday’s celebration also serves as a great chance for those who may be interested in becoming foster parents to get involved.

“The best voices for recruitment are the foster families themselves, who have impacted a life,” said Ford.