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Beat the heat with good eats: Celebrating Maine’s summer food festivals

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Beat the heat with good eats: Celebrating Maine’s summer food festivals (edge photo by Kevin Bennett)

There’s a lot going on in the summertime here in Maine.

There’s all of the outdoors stuff, of course. There are mountains to be climbed and trails to be hiked. There are oceans and lakes and rivers begging to be swum in or kayaked or sailed upon. There’s even the nigh-ubiquitous ritual of heading “upta camp,” where you can do some, most or even all of these things depending on where you go.

Or if you’re leaning towards the arts, there are a multitude of options for you to take in, whether you’re looking for concerts or live theatre or film festivals. There’s a whole lot on that side of things as well.

But you might not be as familiar with just how many food-based festivals are happening all around the state of Maine over the course of the summer. These events – some taking place in just a single day, others clocking in at a week or longer – are devoted to celebrating various foodstuffs that are inherent and integral parts of life here in Vacationland.

Every summer, we here at The Maine Edge look to offer our readers a preview of a few of the phenomenal food experiences our great state has to offer. Here’s a look at just some of what’s to come.

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Maine Whoopie Pie Festival – June 22

In years past, this feature has gone to print a few weeks later in the season. As such, it has always arrived just a bit too late to include Dover-Foxcroft’s beloved Maine Whoopie Pie Festival. We decided that we would right that wrong this year and get the story out there in time to point people toward this sweet and delicious good time. There will be plenty of entertainment – music and road races and other exhibitions (including a timber sports demo) – but let’s be real: folks are here for the whoopie pies. There will be tasty treats courtesy of vendors from all over Maine and New England; there’s even a whoopie pie eating contest. And in a separate-but-related event, the previous evening – June 21 – will see the Portland Sea Dogs change their name for one night only to the Maine Whoopie Pies. This festival has become one of the most eagerly anticipated events of the summer.

(For more information about the Maine Whoopie Pie Festival, you can pay a visit to their website at www.mainewhoopiepiefestival.com or find them on Facebook.)

Moxie Festival – July 12-14

Why not kick off our listings of Maine food festivals with one that celebrates our state’s most iconic soft drink? Believe it or not, 2019 marks 37 years of the Moxie Festival in Lisbon. There are plenty of the usual festival accoutrements – there’s a parade, a road race, a car show and plenty of music and other performances – but there’s also a Moxie-related cooking contest, which sounds intriguing, and a Moxie chugging contest, which sounds either delightful or horrifying, depending on which side of the Moxie love/hate divide you stand on. Plus, the New England Moxie Congress (which I’m ashamed to admit I’m only just now learning is a thing) will be meeting. No word on whether noted Moxie aficionado and part-time Maine resident John Hodgman will be making an appearance, but regardless – the festival is a worthy celebration of Maine’s own soda.

(For more information about the Moxie Festival, you can visit their website at www.moxiefestival.com or check them out on Facebook.)

Maine Potato Blossom Festival – July 13-21

One can’t discuss Maine’s summer food festivals without talking about the Maine Potato Blossom Festival, held annually in Fort Fairfield. Since 1937, the Aroostook County town has been celebrating its agricultural heritage with this festival. Revolving around the tradition of holding the parade on the third Saturday in July – July 20 this year – this is a particularly beloved event. You’ve got loads of music and plenty of food; there are races and all sorts of tournaments, everything from chess to basketball. And oh yeah – there’s a potato picking contest, mashed potato wrestling and a host of different Potato Queen pageants. This is one festival worth keeping an eye on.

(For more information about the Maine Potato Blossom Festival, check out their website at www.potatoblossom.org or visit their Facebook page.)

Yarmouth Clam Festival – July 19-21

First taking place in 1965, this marks year 54 of Yarmouth’s Clam Festival. This one features as wide a variety of entertainment as any festival on this list – music of all genres, performance artists and magicians and whatnot – and has community meals and fun runs and all the other stuff that makes these things so much fun. There’s also a big parade, of course (this year’s theme is “Board Games” – and the marshal is none other than Greg Brady himself, Barry Williams); there are bike races too, as well as the Diaper Derby, a chance for new parents to race their crawlers and toddlers hosted once again by Lee Goldberg. There are wagon rides and a fireman’s muster. There’s a fine arts show, a craft show and an interactive arts expo. Plus – obviously – the Maine State Clam Shucking Contest is a highlight. Anytime you can watch people turn something that shouldn’t be a race into a race, that’s a win.

(For more information about the Yarmouth Clam Festival, visit their website at www.clamfestival.com or find them on Facebook.)

Artisan Bread Fair – July 27

Another new addition to our food festival rundown for 2019, the Artisan Bread Fair will be taking place at the Skowhegan State Fairgrounds on July 27. This event – which occurs in tandem with the Maine Grain Alliance’s annual Kneading Conference. It isn’t quite as festival-y as some of the other events on this list, but what it lacks in flash, it more than makes up for in flavor. Some 60 vendors and bakers will be on hand, offering up their wares for sale while also providing expert advice and demonstrations with regards to the fine art of breadmaking. This is a fair dedicated solely and single-mindedly to real bread and everything associated with it. That specificity of dedication means that while this fair might not be for everyone, the people who are interested will be VERY interested.

(For more information on the Artisan Bread Fair or the MGA’s Kneading Conference, you can visit www.kneadingconference.com or check out the Maine Grain Alliance on Facebook.)

Maine Lobster Festival – July 31-Aug. 4

This is the 72nd installment of what many would consider one of the most preeminent – if not THE most preeminent - food festival in the state. Taking place in Rockland at the town’s Harbor Park, these four days mark one of the most exciting times of the summer season for the folk on the Midcoast. There’s the big parade, obviously; this year’s theme is “Community … at the ‘heart’ of it all.” There’s also the annual running of the Great Lobster Crate Race, not to mention the Maine Sea Goddess Pageant and Coronation as well. The Steins & Vines beer and wine tasting event marks its fifth year. There are carnival rides, a road race and a cooking contest. There will be some wonderful musical offerings on Friday and Saturday nights and throughout the festival. And of course, lots and lots of delicious lobster.

(For more info about the Maine Lobster Festival, visit their website at www.mainelobsterfestival.org or check out their Facebook page.)

Winter Harbor Lobster Festival – Aug. 10

The festival in Rockland might get more press, but the Winter Harbor Lobster Festival is no slouch. They’re 55 years along in Winter Harbor; the celebration has been taking place since all the way back in 1964. And sure, it might be just one day, but oh what a day it is. You’ve got a blueberry pancake breakfast and a memorial road race, a craft fair and a parade and – of course – a lobster dinner. But the highlight has to be the annual lobster boat races taking place in Henry Cove starting at 10 a.m. If you like a more low-key lobster festival, then this is the one for you. It’s definitely worth taking a crack at it.

(For more information about the Winter Harbor Lobster Festival, visit www.acadia-schoodic.org/lobster-festival or find the WHLB on Facebook.)

Maine Red Hot Dog Festival – Aug. 10

If you’re feeling a bit more turf than surf on this day, then you’re going to want to make your way to Dexter for the Maine Red Hot Dog Festival. Seriously – the red hot dog might not be the first thing that folks from “away” think about when they think about our state, but it is one of the most thoroughly Maine foodstuffs out there. This is the fourth year that Dexter has celebrated Maine’s iconic wiener; the town is definitely doing it up right. There’s going to be plenty of standard festival doings. There will be a fun run (sorry – “bun-run”), rides and games, loads of music and some more hot dog-centric fare as well, including a cook-off and – of course – a hot dog eating contest (apologies for the obligatory mention of this fact, but it should be noted that I am the 2009 ABC/Fox All-Star Hot Dog Eating Champion). There are few things more Maine than one of these hot dogs, so why not snap into some red hot fun?

(For more information about the Maine Red Hot Dog Festival, visit their website at www.redhotdog.org or check them out on Facebook.)

Eastport Salmon & Seafood Festival – Aug. 31-Sept. 1

(Note: As of press time, the website for the S&S Festival had not been updated for 2019. However, we feel confident that after 31 years, there’s a pretty solid chance that we see a 32nd.)

The Eastport Salmon & Seafood Festival traditionally takes place during the unofficial end of summer – Labor Day weekend. For three-plus decades now, Eastport has been celebrating salmon and seafood as part of their goodbye to the season. The highlight has always been the salmon barbecue, but there are plenty of other festival trappings as well. Some unique aspects include tours of the largest indoor lobster pound on the Atlantic Coast and Paint Eastport Day, where artists spend a few hours painting images of the town to be auctioned at a reception that same night.

(For more information about the Eastport Salmon & Seafood Festival, visit their website at www.eastportsalmonfest.com.)

Maine Cheese Festival – Sept. 8

This festival is a relative newcomer to the scene; 2019 marks just the fourth year of the event. But the Maine Cheese Festival – a fundraiser for the Maine Cheese Guild, because why wouldn’t it be? – is bringing over 30 cheesemakers to Manson Park in Pittsfield. There will be plenty of other businesses – brewers and vintners and artisans and entertainment and whatnot – but as you might expect, the star of the show is cheese. Not only can you buy it, but there will be assorted workshops regarding all things cheese – making and pairing and cooking. Please note that tickets are limited and organizers anticipate a sellout. Despite what a certain famous cheetah might tell you, it actually can be easy being cheesy.

(For more information regarding the Maine Cheese Festival, you can pay a visit to the Maine Cheese Guild website at www.mainecheeseguild.org or find the Maine Cheese Festival page on Facebook.)

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Blueberry Festivals

There are a LOT of blueberry festivals in this region.

Not that it should surprise us – blueberries are one of the most popular agricultural products that our state produces. They’re huge here in Maine, so it only stands to reason that there would be a number of festivals devoted to singing their praises.

Since there are so many, it seemed proper to give them their own section rather than lumping them in with the rest of the summer bunch. So here is a closer look at a couple of the festivals lauding the noble Maine blueberry.

Wilton Blueberry Festival – August 2-3

For 37 years now, the western Maine town of Wilton has celebrated their Blueberry Festival; this year’s theme is “Mardi Gras.” Of course, there will be a parade, as well as children’s games and assorted fun runs. There will be musical acts, outdoor demonstrations and a juried art show as well. There will also be a blueberry cook-off to go with baby races and all manner of other events aimed at celebrating the blueberry.

(For more information about the Wilton Blueberry Festival, visit their website at www.wiltonbbf.com or find them on Facebook.)

Machias Wild Blueberry Festival – August 16-18

It only stands to reason that Machias would play host to a blueberry festival – Downeast Maine is one of the world’s most prolific producers of the fruit, after all – but you might not know just how far they’re willing to go. You’ve got the usual celebratory things – music and parades and craft fairs and the like – but what sets this festival apart are some of the more esoteric traditions. For instance, there’s the Blueberry Musical, an annual tradition in which local talent writes a brand-new blueberry-themed musical comedy every year; this year’s is called “Blueberries on the Roof,” a musical tale of one family’s battle to save their wild blueberry farm from the scourge of rising seas.

(For more information about the Machias Wild Blueberry Festival, you can visit their website at www.machiasblueberry.com or check out their page on Facebook.)

Union Fair & Maine Wild Blueberry Festival – August 17-24

This is another festival with a long history; the first one took place all the way back in 1960 as a way to promote the industry (as well as to find out who made the best blueberry pie). Coinciding with the Union Fair, this festival is yet another that is devoted to all things blueberry, with a dedicated home known as Blueberry Acres. And before you ask, yes – they’re still picking the very best pie, but they’re also judging muffins and other desserts as well. There’s a whole lot more, too - including the annual crowning of the Maine Wild Blueberry Queen.

(For more information about the Union Fair & Maine Wild Blueberry Festival, visit the website at www.unionfair.org/blueberryfestival or find them on Facebook.)

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So there you have it. All manner of food-related festivals taking place all over the state. Whether you’re looking for seafood, something sweet or savory or just a good old-fashioned red hot dog, there’s a festival for you happening somewhere in Maine.

What are you waiting for? Get out there and chow down!

Last modified on Tuesday, 11 June 2019 15:49

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