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Amy Paradysz

Amy Paradysz is a "Scene & Heard" columnist for the Portland Press Herald and a "Seen" photographer for She edits everything from proposal bids to blogs to cookbooks--and verbally edits everything she drives by.

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Posted: June 27, 2018

Potatoes, ployes and flamingos – oh my! – at this summer’s stranger festivals

Written by: Amy Paradysz

Christian rock comes to Sunday River. Photo courtesy of McKenney Photography

We’re so blessed with scenic beauty and fun stuff to do in southern Maine that sometimes we need a little extra something to get us out of Dodge to explore the western mountains, the midcoast or the County. A festival can be that nudge. Whether you want to get kitschy on Mount Desert Island, wrestle in mashed potatoes in Fort Fairfield, connect spiritually in Bethel, catch muskie in Fort Kent or camp out with chill bands in Brunswick, these five festivals over the next several weeks will get you on the way to a Maine adventure.

River Rock Festival

July 6-7; Sunday River Ski Resort, Bethel

Several of the biggest names in Christian music are coming back to Sunday River for this two-day family music celebration featuring morning worship sessions, rockin’ evening shows and late-night acoustic performances. Performing artists include Mercy Me, Matthew West, Unspoken, Mandisa, Danny Gokey, We Are Messengers, 7Eventh Time Down and Sidewalk Prophets. Adult admission is $74 for two days (or $44 for a day pass). To bump up the adrenaline level, add an Adventure Pass for $25 and check out the scenic Chondola rides, twin ziplines, a bungee trampoline and a climbing wall. Lodging is available at Grand Summit and Jordan Hotel by reservation.

Flamingos take over Southwest Harbor in mid-July. Photo courtesy of George Soules

Harbor House Flamingo Festival

July 13-16; Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island

Thousands flock to Southwest Harbor for this kitschy and decidedly pink community festival. Highlights include an “Under the Sea” parade, a Flamingo 4-Miler that runs through Acadia National Park (and a free fun run for kids), a craft fair sure to delight flamingo lovers, and a pink-as-can-be Polo and Yacht Club Cocktail Party. The festival is hosted by – and is a fundraiser for – Harbor House Community Service Center on Mount Desert Island. Plan your Acadia National Park trip in conjunction with Flamingo Festival dates for a twofer of scenic natural beauty and whimsical small-town charm.

Potato-related competitions are just part of the fun at this Aroostook County festival. Photo courtesy of Maine Potato Blossom Festival

Maine Potato Blossom Festival

July 14-22; Fort Fairfield, Aroostook County

If you want to get in the ring for some mashed potato wrestling, be here Friday night! If not, this nine-day festival has plenty of other athletic events, including a 5-miler, a splash-and-dash, a swim meet, basketball and golf tournaments and an inflatable adventure park for the kids. Then sit back and relax with free concerts, a parade and fireworks over blossoming potato fields, celebrating the County’s agricultural heritage. The fields in bloom are a spectacular sight, and the Fort Fairfield area on the Aroostook River is beloved by hikers and kayakers.


Band Camp Music & Arts Festival

Rock on then camp out at Band Camp in Brunswick. Photo courtesy of Twisted Sprocket Studio

July 27-29; Thomas Point Beach, Brunswick

For those who dig eclectic live music and visual and performing arts, as well as camping seaside with other creative types, Band Camp is three days and two nights of laid-back bliss. Music spans funk, rock, jam, reggae, bluegrass, folk and blues, featuring Gruvenwood, Hambone, Singepole Mountain Band, Puddn’head, A Mighty Lion, Bandwich, Harsh Armadillo, The Van Burens, Fules Gold and The Strange Machine. A tent camping site is included with the purchase of a three-day pass ($60 in advance, $70 at the gate); day passes (available for the first time this year) range from $15 to 45. Thomas Point Beach Campground, just off Route 24, has a clean, sandy tidal beach overlooking Thomas Bay and woodsy oceanside campsites worth a visit even if you don’t make it to Band Camp.

See the world’s largest ploye sizzle in Fort Kent in August. Photo courtesy of Ploye Festival

Ploye Festival and Fort Kent International Muskie Derby

Aug. 10-12; Fort Kent

A ploye is a Northern Maine and Canadian favorite somewhere between a pancake and a crepe, and it’s the namesake of this three-day festival, where the world’s largest ploye sizzles up (Friday). Other highlights include a chicken barbecue, a craft fair, kids’ ploye-eating and frog-jumping contests, a golf ball drop, fireworks, a tractor pull, a lobster boil and live music all weekend. The Ploye Festival is the same weekend as the International Muskie Derby. The St. John River is a prime habitat for muskie, and muskie fishing is considered one of the greatest freshwater sports fish challenges nationwide.

While in Fort Kent, check out the America’s First Mile marker at the St. John River and the border crossing. Speaking of borders, another stop worth a visit is Fort Kent Blockhouse, the only fortification relating to the Aroostook War of 1838-1839, a border dispute between Great Britain and the United States.

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