Ken Blais is greeted by his daughter, Sadie Blais, upon arriving at Martindale Country Club in Auburn on Thursday evening and learning that he was named the 2017 Auburn Citizen of the Year. Blais, the owner of Rolly’s Diner, was influential in the formation of the United New Auburn Association. He was honored for his contribution to the community and his culinary flair.

AUBURN — Ken Blais, proprietor of the popular Rolly’s Diner in New Auburn, was named Citizen of the Year by the Auburn Business Association on Thursday night.

The award recognized Blais’ important role in making his restaurant a gathering place for political conversation and community engagement.

He is the association’s 44th recipient of the honor. About 100 association members and guests attended the event at Martindale Country Club in Auburn.

“I was really caught off guard,” Blais said.

Several speakers also noted the surprise on Blais’ face when he arrived and learned he was this year’s honoree.

His daughter, Sadie Blais, who has worked alongside him for a dozen years at the establishment, said, “I am so proud that my father has made Rolly’s Diner a local landmark.”

She said, “He truly enjoys helping people.”

Blais was born and raised in Lewiston. He is the middle son of Roland and Rolande Blais, whose names are carried on in the diner’s familiar sign.

In 1989, Ken married Jean Crone, whom he met while working in a small restaurant in northern Maine.

Blais’ culinary honors include Chef of the Year in 2013 from the American Culinary Federation.

He always wanted to open his own business, and that happened Dec. 18, 1993, with the establishment of Rolly’s Diner.

In addition to his daughter, attending the event were a son, Justin, and a young grandchild, Avery.

His youngest son, Jordan, is stationed at Camp Casey, South Korea. Although not present, Jordan was able to watch the event live through video transmissions on cellphones.

Auburn Mayor Jonathan LaBonte served as master of ceremonies, and Leroy Walker, city councilor of Ward 5, which encompasses the New Auburn area, spoke about Blais’ many civic interests.

Eight years ago, Blais and Walker established an outlet at the diner for the New Auburn Community to have a voice. The United New Auburn Association meets at Rolly’s Diner on the last Tuesday of every month.

The organization, with Blais’ help, has hosted many events and fundraisers, including yard sales, antique car shows, Christmas events, parades, Halloween, May Day celebrations at Walton School, Chili and Chowder competition to benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Maine’s Auburn/Lewiston Clubhouse and fundraising for the Bells of St. Louis.

In recognition of his 24 years in business, and for his community involvement, Blais was presented with a key to the city by LaBonte. Letters were read from Maine’s U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, and from U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin. Flags flown above Congress in Washington were presented to Blais.

State Rep. Bruce Bickford, R-Auburn, and state Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, also spoke.


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