Late summer and early fall is the peak season for fairs and festivals in the Pine Tree State. Being a native "Maniac", the promise of hot August days at the fairground made cold muddy Aprils a little more bearable. Shriek-inducing rides, brightly lit midways and evening harness racing were a part of daily life for a week or two every summer. The end of the fair signaled the end of the season, time to get ready for school and the long, long winter ahead. The following are some of my favorite fairs and festivals, each offering a little something that is uniquely Maine.
On August 14th, the 47th Annual Lobster Festival will take place in scenic Winter Harbor, located way down east on the Schoodic Peninsula overlooking Frenchman's Bay. It's a terrific day of family fun, including lobster boat races and a craft fair, ending of course with a traditional lobster dinner, fireworks and a parade. For those athletically inclined, start the day with a 5k road race following a course along one of the most scenic coastal roads in Maine. If you find you need a break from the hustle and bustle of the festival, take some time to drive the Schoodic Scenic Byway, a 29-mile drive around the peninsula that passes through charming villages and offers numerous breathtaking views of the crashing surf.
From August 21st to the 28th the Union Fairgrounds are home to the Maine Wild Blueberry Festival. Located in the mid-coast region, Union is surrounded by rolling hills and beautiful farmlands. Rest assured, if it can be done with a blueberry, you'll see it at the festival. Pancake breakfasts, pie-eating contests, competitions for the best blueberry muffins and desserts, and of course, the coronation of the Maine Wild Blueberry Queen make this the perfect late summer destination.
Music buffs won't want to miss the 71st Annual American Folk Festival held on the Bangor waterfront the last weekend in August. The banks of the Penobscot River are filled with the sounds of music from around the world, celebrating the many cultures that make up America today. Whether it's rhythm and blues, salsa and bomba y plena, or Quebecois (a Maine favorite!), there is something to please every musical taste. And speaking of taste, in addition to traditional festival fair, be sure to sample the wide variety of ethnic foods!
Saving the best for last, every year my family makes the pilgrimage to Unity for the Common Ground Fair . Put on annually the third weekend after Labor Day by the Maine Organic Farmers and Growers Association (MOFGA), it is the premier showcase for the organic lifestyle. Offering a jam-packed schedule of classes and demonstrations, there isn't a moment to spare during this three-day event. It is a celebration of sustainable living, beautiful Maine crafts and fiber arts. My personal favorite is the barn filled with rabbits on display, every color and variety you can imagine and all for sale. One thing we all agree on is that the food is incredible. Pie cones with a whole wheat crust are a perennial favorite, as are the deep-fried shitake mushrooms. Make sure you save room for a bowl of vegetarian pea soup made with love by the people at "Give Peas a Chance", you won't regret it!