The allure of small-town life, for a lot of people, is that it’s a little slower-paced, a little less crowded, a little more friendly.
The same might be said for small-town festivals, fairs and local celebrations. While a 100,000 or more people will flock to annual Maine shindigs like the Fryeburg Fair and the Yarmouth Clam Festival, there are dozens of smaller town celebrations that offer just as much fun.
During the summer, there are such festivals all over the state, where the lines won’t be as long and the parking won’t be a huge hassle. But there will be amusement rides, fireworks, parades, boat rides, food and music. At Richmond Luau Days, you can take hula lessons, partake in a pig roast and take a boat ride to an island in the Kennebec River. At the Pittston Fair, you can watch local girls vying to be crowned either Blossom, Princess or Queen at the annual Strawberry Pageant. And at Oakfest, in the town of Oakland, near Waterville, you can shake your groove thing in an old-fashioned street dance.
Wherever you travel in Maine, no matter how far afield, you could run into such an event. So, it’s good to keep your eyes open. But for planning purposes, here’s the run-down on five small-town soirées scheduled for the next couple weeks. All have free admission, though food, crafts and amusement ride tickets have to be purchased.
Richmond Luau Days, Friday through Sunday, Main Street, Richmond, downtown and riverfront, as well as Swan Island in the Kennebec River
Richmond spices up its “Richmond Days” party with a different theme every year. So, this year, the town of about 3,400 people on the Kennebec River will host Richmond Luau Days. On Saturday, there’s a hula show and hula lessons at noon and 2 p.m., a concert and ukulele lessons at 12:45 p.m. and a pig roast supper ($15) at 4 p.m. There are also limbo contests later on Saturday, for children and adults. In past years, Richmond’s “days” have focused on Medieval times and vaudeville performers.
“In some towns, it’s ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ but we find choosing a different theme every year makes it fun for everyone,” said Victoria Boundy, the town’s community and business development director. “It just brings a new injection of energy.”
But the celebration will have more traditional events, too, including a children’s parade at 6:30 p.m. Friday and, on Saturday afternoon, lobster crate races, in which participants run over floating crates that are strung together. There are also free pontoon boat rides and fireworks Saturday night.
Bucksport Bay Festival, Friday through Sunday, waterfront and downtown areas of Bucksport, along the Penobscot River.
The Bucksport Bay Festival takes place in the picturesque Penobscot River town of 4,900 people, located just a half-hour or so from Ellsworth, the gateway to Acadia National Park. There are events with a local flavor, including the pancake breakfast, the Saturday morning parade and the talent show at 6 p.m. Friday. There are also artisans and crafters set up all along the waterfront, which has a stunning view of Fort Knox and Penobscot Narrows Bridge, across the water.
There are boat tours of the harbor ($10 to $20), live music on Saturday and Sunday throughout the day and fireworks Saturday night.
Some other highlights are the classic car show on Saturday and the dinghy races at 1 p.m. Sunday.
“The festival is a way to bring people to town, to have them stop and see our beautiful waterfront and everything we have here,” said Chris Grindle, of the Bucksport Bay Area Chamber of Commerce. “And it’s also for people here to celebrate their town.”
Oakfest 2016, Friday through Sunday, various locations near Main Street, Oakland
Just next door to Waterville is Oakland, a town of about 6,000. The 2nd Annual Oakfest will kick off Friday with food vendors downtown, a parade and a deejay spinning tunes for a street dance. On Saturday, there will be a farmers market, craft sale, kids’ petting zoo, bounce houses and musical performances. On Saturday night, the Maine country-rock band Boneheads will perform.
Pittston Fair, Thursday through Sunday, Pittston Fairground, 995 East Pittston Road, Pittston
Summer in Maine says strawberries to a lot of folks. Well, it does to the 2,600 residents of the Augusta-area town of Pittston anyway. The annual Strawberry Pageant is a focal point of the Pittston Fair. The fairgrounds also hosts the town’s Strawberry Museum, which will be open every day with artifacts representing the strawberry crop’s importance to the area. The Strawberry Pageant lets girls ages 5 to 20 years old compete to become either a Blossom (ages 5-7), a Princess (10-13) or a Queen (16-20). The coronation takes place Sunday afternoon.
Like most fairs, there are animals, a pig scramble, baking contests, tractor pulls and lots of entertainment. Some of the more unusual contests include a fry-pan toss and a “he-man/she-woman” contest, where men and women show off their brute strength.
Casco Days, July 28-30, Casco Day Park, 948 Meadow Road, Casco and nearby areas;
Held in the Lakes Region town of Casco, with a year-round population of about 3,700, this event is held at Casco Day Park. But it’s expanded since its founding in 1935, and this year will be three days long. It starts on a Thursday with the midway opening at 6 a.m. and fireworks that night. On Friday, there’s a children’s parade at 7 p.m., and the Grand Parade is 2 p.m. Saturday. Popular Maine children’s performer Rick Charette helps close out the festival at 7 p.m. Saturday.