Sure, it’s spring in Maine, and why not celebrate? We’ve finally gotten rid of the snow, the days are getting longer, ice cream stands are opening, flowers are starting to bloom, bees are flying..And to top it off…the fishing season is about to kick off in Midcoast Maine. That’s right lovers of cooked lobster, one of the most exciting festivals of the year is coming up in The 41st Annual Boothbay Harbor Fishermen’s Festival planned for the weekend of April 25 – 27.
I’ve been to the festival two or three times and thoroughly enjoyed myself each time. It’s my favorite time to go to Boothbay Harbor. Yes, really. Parking is a cinch, hotel rooms are available and at off-season rates (I’m the gal who loves being the only or one of the only guests), restaurants are open – or opening up, there are about a million photo opportunities, and what’s not to love about celebrating the hard working commercial fishermen who bring in the daily catch. Added bonus, all the homemade baked goods sold by high school students to raise money for programs.
Check with the Boothbay Harbor Region Chamber of Commerce for hotel information. I’m a big fan of the Welch House Inn – their granola is out of this world. Stay downtown so you can walk to the events, Boothbay Harbor is the kind of town where you want to stretch your legs. It’s so pretty and you’ll notice more. Save the car driving for when you visit Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens on your way in or out of town.
The three-day event kicks off Friday evening at the Boothbay Region High School where the 2014 Miss Shrimp Princess will be crowed in the annual pageant. I’ve been and it’s fun, but if pageants are not your thing it’s not a must do.
Saturday morning’s events have consistently been my favorites:
8 a.m. Cod Fish Relay Race: Four person teams of the Boothbay Region High School run a course beginning at the public parking lot (adjacent to Fisherman’s Wharf Inn) dressed in foul weather gear, including hip boots, while carrying slippery fish.
9:30 a.m. Lobster Crate Running: Participants will demonstrate their agility in running along the tops of the lobster crates strung out between the two town docks.
10:15 a.m. Trap Hauling Competition: Race begins at the town dock, where competing lobster boats tie up. Captain and sternman race down the ramp, untie their boats and speed toward the string of traps in the inner harbor to haul, bait and reset their traps, return to the dock, and race up the ramp, trying to turn the fastest time.
Stay for the Sunday afternoon Memorial Service at 1:30 p.m. As the bell tolls, the names of the lost fishermen will be read by local clergy. It’s a pretty moving experience and an honor to attend. Afterwards, is the Blessing of the Fleet: Fishing boats circle the inner harbor and pass the Fishermen’s Memorial to receive the blessing for a safe and profitable year.
Here is a link to the full schedule for this one-of-a-kind festival.