Only in Portland would an awards ceremony for business professionals involve food trucks, circus acrobats dangling overhead and engraved guitars given as trophies (because the recipients rock).

Led by incoming Propel President Rebecca Bolduc, the young-professionals arm of the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce recast its annual recognition event as the Ignition Awards.

“I saw the rebirth of our annual event as an opportunity to engage the community, because we have a big year ahead of us,” Bolduc said, referring to the launch of the Maine Ambassador Program, in which Propel members will welcome newcomers to the state.

Community engagement started with soliciting nominations (65 were received) and continued with the opportunity for event attendees to vote live in the first Food Truck of the Year competition. Four hundred people came to the Ignition Awards at the Thompson’s Point pavilion June 29, with six food trucks and a Gelato Fiasco food cart serving up their top menu items.

The field that included Maine-ly Meatballs, Mainely Burgers, PB&ME, Hakka Me, Cannoli Joe’s and Pinky D’s Poutine Truck, which took the popular vote with its Maine lobster poutine, Korean barbecue poutine, caprese poutine and classic poutine.

The Hustler of the Year award went to Fork Food Lab, a food-focused startup incubator in Portland that was recently acquired by New York City-based company Foodworks, less than a year after Fork opened.

In the large-business category, Sea Bags took the Growth Stimulation award for hiring and job creation, and Allagash Brewing Co. took the Social Entrepreneurship award for its unique brew of business success and passion for social issues.

In the small-business category, Boots2Roots, a nonprofit that partners with active-duty personnel before their move back to civilian life to help them establish roots here, was recognized for Social Entrepreneurship.

“I think it means even more in some ways because it comes from a group of young people,” said John Manganello, co-founder of Boots2Roots.

“Because these are the peers of the people we serve,” added co-founder Col. Dave Hickey.

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer from Scarborough. She can be reached at:

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