Lea Wait, here, happily sharing that last weekend I was finally able to attend my first Damariscotta Pumpkinfest. It was the 6th Annual Pumpkinfest — but book festivals, antique shows, weddings, and various other Columbus Day commitments had conspired to keep me from attending the festivities before, and I was determined not to miss the fun again.
I wasn’t the only one who’d planned to be there. Main Street was crowded, and I saw license plates from states not only in the northeast, but south to Florida and west to Ohio, with a few cars from Texas tucked into corners of side streets. The word had gotten out. Damariscotta was clearly the “in” place to be.
So … what is a Pumpkinfest? You can probably guess parts of it. A competition for the biggest pumpkin. (It weighed in at over 1300 pounds.) A pumpkin catapult and hurl, in which pumpkins were … catapulted, of course, and aimed at (junked) cars, which they proceeded to do a good job of destroying. (At the end of the festival, all destroyed or decayed pumpkins were destined for composting.)
Pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin bread, pumpkin whoopie pies, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin seeds, and a pumpkin pie eating contest were all a part of the fun, and although I missed it, I heard the Dessert Contest was definitely a winner.
Pumpkin flavored cider was to be had, along with some spicy local brews at restaurants in town which also ensured that their menus included pumpkin dishes.
But in Damariscotta, pumpkins weren’t just for growing and eating. Have you thought about building a pumpkin car? There were several in the parade. Or — on a slightly smaller scale — a “pumpkin racer” — a non-motorized vehicle that could compete on a 50 yard course? Prizes for competitors in several age groups.
Or … considering Damariscotta is a river town .. what about turning your super-sized pumpkin into a boat? The Pumpkin regatta draws a crowd every year.
And, since Maine is a state filled with artists and sculptors, what better canvas than a pumpkin to show off your skills? Carved and painted 200-500 pound pumpkins lined Main Street, demonstrating the skill and creativity of town residents.
Of course, there was a parade, in which it seemed every fire department in the county had sent a fire engine, joined by a bagpipe corps, a boat from the local Coast Guard, cows, sheep and goats proudly dyed orange and displayed by their 4-H owners, and several local rock and folk bands who entertained the crowds lining the street.
There actually was an official “mission” of Pumpkinfest (other than to have fun). I worked for a corporation for a lot of years, so I can imagine how it was written. Bottom line – it was to let people know how to grow big pumpkins, and to provide a time and a place for people to celebrate agriculture. Looked to me as though the Pumpkinfest had, in corporate speak, “met and exceeded expectations.” And – better yet – it had brought a lot of people to Damariscotta and given them a great reason to smile on a long fall weekend.