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A few fairs and festivals

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Maine's summer offers a wide variety of celebrations

Summertime in Maine is truly a wonderful time. The sun is shining, the birds are singing - we're all going off to the beach or up to camp. We're hiking and biking all over the beautiful landscape.

But suppose you don't like to swim. Maybe you're not all that interested in hiking or biking. Does that mean the Maine summer has nothing for you? The answer, happily, is no. So what are your other options?

Fairs. Festivals. Celebrations of various people, places and things abound around the state at this time of year. You can just hop in the car and find something to enjoy. There's artistic excitement and culinary wonder, food and fun all over the map. Some take place over the course of a few days or a week, while others stretch across large chunks of the summer.

Here are just a few highlights:

Bangor State Fair: July 29 - Aug. 7

Ah, the old standby - right in our backyard. The Bangor State Fair was one of the highlights of the summer when I was a kid and it has become one again. Everything you want from a fair, the Bangor State Fair gives you. Midway with rides and shady games? Check. Booths selling all sorts of fried and/or sugary deliciousness? Check. Different musical acts every single evening (including a Journey cover band?) Check.

And let's not forget that at its heart, the Bangor State Fair is an agricultural fair. Go see the animals. They might smell a little whiffy, but they are all adorable in their own way, and it's nice to take part in that more traditional aspect of the fair. And hey - maybe they'll have the pig races again.

Check out the BSF website at for more information and a calendar of events.

Bates Dance Festival: July 1 - Aug. 13

The Bates Dance Festival is one of the most prestigious of its kind. For six weeks, professional dancers and dance students come together in a whirlwind of training and performance - the goal is to bring choreographers, dancers, teachers and students together to build new talents and create new works.

However, it's the performances that should get you out of your living room and down the road to Lewiston. Some of the most acclaimed choreographers and performers in the world of dance have brought their talents to Bates. This summer is no different, with numerous opportunities to see performances you're unlikely to find anywhere else. A particular highlight is the Young Choreographers/New Works Showcase, held on Aug. 13. It's a chance to see exciting, daring new work by young and vibrant dancers and certainly worth a look.

For more information and event listings, visit

Bucksport Bay Festival: July 28 - July 31

This is the 14th annual Bucksport Bay Festival, and there's nothing quite like being there when a town celebrates itself. You've got the standard stuff - things like parades and 5K fun runs. There will be music happening at assorted venues all over town. You've got car shows and motorcycle shows. Not to mention two giant boats. The Navy frigate John L. Hall and the Coast Guard cutter Tackle will be docked in town and available for tours at certain times over the course of the festivals.

There are scores of Maine towns that show the same sort of willingness to embrace that which makes them unique, but you'll be hard-pressed to find a celebration that's more fun than this one.

Visit the Bucksport Bay Festival website at for event listings and more information.

International Homecoming Festival: July 29 - Aug. 7

This festival is a celebration of the neighboring towns of Calais and St. Stephen, New Brunswick. During the International Homecoming Festival, these two communities become one, with events taking place on both sides of the border.

And there is something for everyone here. If you're into music, there are concerts and performances happening throughout the festival. For those who like athletic competition, there are basketball games, a skateboarding contest and even a strongman competition - not to mention the chocolate pudding wrestling. If you've got a sweet tooth, Chocolate Fest 2011 is ongoing. The International Homecoming Festival is one of those uniquely Maine events that everyone should check out at least once.

For event listings or other information, visit the International Homecoming Festival website at

Schoodic Arts Festival: Aug. 1 - Aug. 14

This festival, which takes place in and around Winter Harbor, is absolutely jam-packed with artistic goodness. First and foremost, there are the workshops - over 80 in all. These workshops offer opportunities to learn about all manner of subjects. Boating, cooking, crafts, visual arts, fiber arts, dance, theater, and writing - you name it, this festival offers a chance to learn about it.

And then of course, there are the performances. In the afternoons, there are a series of free lunchtime performances. In the evenings, you can see all sorts of fascinating shows. There's music and dance and theater, lectures and films. You can find just about anything you'd want to see of an evening at this festival.

Visit the Schoodic Arts website for more information and event listings at

Maine Lobster Festival: Aug. 3 - Aug. 7

There can be no discussion of Maine's summer festivals without mention of this one. Rockland's Maine Lobster Festival has become a well-known event, with attention from any number of media outlets. It even served as the subject of the titular essay in David Foster Wallace's "Consider the Lobster." Also? There's 20,000 pounds of lobster.

We'll start with the world's largest lobster cooker. It's there and it's awesome. There is a lobster cooking contest. There's a fine arts tent and plenty of musical performances taking place throughout. You've got the coronation of the Sea Goddess. Plus there's the Lobster Crate Race, a sprint across the tops of 50 partially submerged crates. The winner is the one who makes it farthest without falling into the ocean. Yeah - it's like that.

To learn more about the Maine Lobster Festival or to see a schedule of events, visit the website at

Great Falls Balloon Festival: Aug. 19 - Aug. 21

There are few things as quietly impressive as a hot-air balloon. Put 30 or 40 of them in the same place you've got quite a spectacle on your hands. That's what you'll get at Lewiston's Great Falls Balloon Festival. Participants come from all over the world, with thousands of people descending on the town over the course of the weekend. There's food, fun, music and games.

But the stars of the show are the balloons. Weather permitting, balloon launches will take place at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. each day. You can even enjoy "Breakfast with the Balloons" if you go to the early ones. Not to mention the fact that there are balloon rides available. Put it all together and you have a wonderfully unique summer experience.

To find out more, including where to get your balloon ride tickets, visit the Great Falls Balloon Festival website at

Machias Wild Blueberry Festival: Aug. 19 - Aug. 21

As with lobster, no discussion of Maine in the summer would be complete without making mention of blueberries. Machias hosts their Wild Blueberry Festival every summer, and no town is better suited to a celebration of our beloved state fruit.

There's the usual festival suspects of course; there are vendors and artisans and food offerings galore. There's a parade and plenty of activities for the kids. However, there are unique offerings as well. There's a cooking contest with over 15 different categories. There's an honest-to-goodness pie-eating contest. There's even an original-every-year Blueberry Musical, not to mention the Blackfly Ball. It's a grand party in honor of a grand fruit.

Visit the Machias Wild Blueberry Festival website at to see a calendar of events or for more information.


This is just a small sampling of the many opportunities for summertime fun available to us here in Maine. Some other excellent resources to learn more about these sorts of goings on include websites such and the Maine Arts Commission calendar at These and other resources can tell you about everything that's happening in the far-flung corners of Maine.

We live in a unique place; why not check out some celebrations of that very uniqueness? Get out there and see the state in which we live - there's more out there than you think.

Last modified on Wednesday, 14 December 2011 14:31


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