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Fair fare – fun with food festivals

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Fair fare – fun with food festivals (Photo courtesy Yarmouth Clam Festival)

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.

We’re not in time for all of this summer’s festivals – for instance, the always-exceptional Maine Whoopie Pie Festival took place back on June 23 – but there are still all manner of tasty trips there for the taking, with a variety of festivals playing out over the next few weeks.

Here’s a look at just some of what’s to come.

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Moxie Festival – July 13-15

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, 2018 marks 36 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 14-22

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 21 this year – this is a particularly beloved event. There’s 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 20-22

First taking place in 1965, this marks year 53 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 “Totally ‘80s”); 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.)

Maine Lobster Festival – Aug. 1-5

This is the 71st 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 “Kids, Laughter & Lobster!” 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. 11

The festival in Rockland might get more press, but the Winter Harbor Lobster Festival is no slouch. They’re 54 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. 11

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 third 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 – Sept. 1-2

The Eastport Salmon & Seafood Festival takes place during the unofficial end of summer – Labor Day weekend – and so marks the end of this particular food festival list. For three 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, in its 20th year, 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. 9

This festival is a relative newcomer to the scene; 2018 marks just the third 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 Wolfe’s Neck Farm in Freeport. There will be plenty of other business – 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 3-4

For 36 years now, the western Maine town of Wilton has celebrated their Blueberry Festival; this year’s theme is “Christmas in August.” 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 17-19

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. There’s 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 “A Mermaid’s Tail” and features mermaids, scientists, sea hags and some blueberry fairies! (Please note: the Beehive Collective’s Blackfly Ball, which has a well-deserved reputation as a dance party like no other, is no longer happening during the festival; the new date is in October.)

(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 19-26

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!

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