Welcome to Vacationland! Those road signs greet visitors as they enter the state. I’ve long argued there should be a tagline of “…we hope you’re hungry.” Maine might make headlines for its luscious lobster — and for good reason — but wait until you see the feast of festivals that await.
Maine’s seafood and other food festivals are so much more than just celebrating the fruits of labor. They are ingrained in the cultures and sub-cultures of the state. From the crown of Maine in Aroostook County to the state line in Kittery to the Canadian border at Lubec, Maine food is part of another motto, “The Way Life (and Food) Should Be.”
Without picking favorites, we’re listing them here in alphabetical order. Let’s eat our way through Maine’s best food festivals.
As an April Fools’ Day joke that was taken too seriously, the inland community of Auburn now hosts a Lobster Festival. In 2021, the City of Auburn (sarcastically) announced the first-ever lobster festival, “Fresh from the Androscoggin River.”
Since the river is freshwater and runs a good 30 miles before it comes close to saltwater where lobsters live, it was meant to get a good laugh out of locals. The response was so positive that the Auburn Lobster Festival is now a thing.
Restaurants, law enforcement, firefighters, and organizations all send their best “chowdah” makers to compete for the title. You can sample a mix of sweet and spicy chilis and a mix of seafood chowders.
The culinary creations of chefs, farmers, fisheries, and bakers within a 40-mile range of Brunswick serve bite-sized treats for guests to sample. The price of admission gets you access to all the finest foods, and you can pay more if you find a favorite.
TIP: Try to get VIP access so that you can be among the first in line.
The Damariscotta Pumpkinfest & Regatta will scratch that pumpkin-spiced itch that comes with the first crisp day of fall air. This event is so epic that it’s nominated for the Best Fall Festival by USA Today Reader’s Choice.
Massive Atlantic giant pumpkins are carved, crafted, and painted by local artists and on display. Pumpkin-flavored treats fill the streets during this four-day festival, including a pumpkin pie-eating contest.
Otherwise, enjoy your sweet snack while watching the “regatta” of people in giant pumpkin boats trying to stay afloat in Damariscotta.
NOTE: Damariscotta is pronounced, “dam-risk-otta.”
If Maine had its own food groups, Red’s Hot Dogs would be one of them. You’ll head deep into the Maine Highlands to the town of Dexter to celebrate Maine’s Red Hot Dog Festival. Also known as “Red Snappers,” these bright red hot dogs literally make a snap sound when you bite into them.
Red Snappers were invented in Bangor and have since become the go-to dogs of choice for Mainers and others throughout New England. If nothing else, I promise that you’ll never see so many dogs and people dressed up like hot dogs for the rest of your life.
Celebrate the official state treat of Maine at the Whoopie Pie Festival in Dover-Foxcroft. A whoopie pie isn’t a traditional pie. It’s two domed pieces of cake wrapped around a scoop of icing. The pies are generally the size of hamburgers and have become staples and comfort foods across Maine.
The traditional whoopie pie is chocolate cake with white icing, but with more than 10,000 available at the festival, you’ll get an assortment of flavors.
TIP: For the original Maine whoopie pie, visit Labadie’s Bakery in Lewiston. They’ve been making the same recipe since 1925.
On the archipelago of Eastport, the annual Salmon Festival takes over Labor Day weekend. The highlight of the weekend is Seafood Sunday when the salmon barbecue includes a bay boat ride to salmon pens.
Crab rolls and clam chowder also make their way into this salmon space. Smoked salmon paired with wine offers another unique way to celebrate salmon. And if you stay through the next weekend, you can attend the Eastport Pirate Festival.
A Maine spring hallmark is the sprouting of fiddleheads along shaded waterways of inland Maine. Farmington celebrates this season with the Maine Fiddlehead Festival.
Fiddleheads are the furled fronds of young ferns. They are considered spring vegetables and have a crisp texture and flavor like asparagus or green beans with a stem like broccoli, making them a tasty seasonal treat.
Fiddleheads can be cooked or sautéed on their own or mixed with omelets, rice, or salads — the list goes on. Try all kinds of unique fiddlehead recipes while surrounded by live music and an adorable children’s vegetable parade.
For a few days each July, the humble potato becomes a celebrated superstar in the farmlands of Aroostook County. The Maine Potato Blossom Festival blooms in Fort Fairfield for a 10-day celebration. It’s an agricultural wonderland of parades, concerts, contests, and food featuring the spud in all its starchy glory.
The festival started in 1947 when Maine produced more potatoes than any other state in the nation (looking at you, Idaho). Potatoes are still the state’s top agricultural product bringing in more than $215 million.
WATCH: See how potatoes are harvested — from the ground to your grocery bag.
Up north in Fort Kent, take time to enjoy the Ploye Festival. This Acadian cultural meal staple is similar to a crêpe but not quite a pancake. Ployes are just as tasty with fresh Maine maple syrup as they are with gravy.
Whether you prefer your ploye as a breakfast dish or carb side dish for lunch or dinner, the flavors abound here. The festival runs for a week and includes the world record creation of a 12-foot-diameter ploye. It’s a great chance to learn about Acadian culture or start a trip down the Allagash Wilderness Waterway.
NOTE: The Ploye Festival used to be held at the same time as the Muskie Derby but has since moved to the first weekend of summer.
Freeport Maine is widely known as being home to the flagship store for L.L. Bean, but every summer, The Maine Oyster Festival takes over. Vendors fill Discovery Park, so you can indulge in oysters shucked fresh and served fried, roasted, steamed, or raw alongside cold beers and live music.
Also, the weekend event features shucking contests, testing the skills of competitors, artisans selling their wares, and even an oyster dance party.
NOTE: The unique Pemaquid Oyster Festival is held annually in Damariscotta but moved to Boothbay Harbor in 2023. Keep an eye out for future years if you want to sample this special version of oysters.
The Moxie Festival is an annual celebration held in Lisbon that pays tribute to the distinctively flavored and polarizing Moxie soda. Dating back to 1982, the festival embraces the quirky soft drink that was originally created as a patent medicine in the late 1800s by a Maine doctor.
Moxie is the official soft drink of Maine, and it’s okay if you don’t like the taste of it (but give it a chance, okay?). The festival includes a whoopie pie-eating contest and a lobstah feast.
You’ll never look at your grocery store blueberries the same after visiting the Machias Wild Blueberry Festival. For nearly 50 years, this Downeast town has offered accolades to this low-brush resilient version of blueberries.
Whether you prefer to eat them right off the bush or savor a slice of wild blueberry pie, you can pick from dozens of options at the blueberry buffet. The blueberry pie-eating contest has even drawn coverage from ESPN! Take a tour of a blueberry farm while you’re there Machias too.
NOTE: Machias is pronounced, “muh-CHY-us.”
I want to take a pit stop in Patten for Pioneer Days but mostly to tell you about another Maine food tradition available here. At the edge of Maine’s most expansive wilderness area, the festival focuses on the lumber industry’s history.
Visit the Patten Lumbermen’s Museum while you’re here, but don’t miss the Bean Hole Bean Dinner if you’re lucky enough to get tickets before they sell out. If you have a chance to try bean-hole beans anywhere in Maine, this is the best place.
Bean-hole beans are made by digging a hole in the ground, filling it with hot coals, putting the prepared beans in the pit, and covering them overnight. This meal fed decades of lumberjacks with a simple solution to a hot meal any time of day.
NOTE: Red snappers and biscuits made over an open fire are more food staples of this throwback festival.
The Rhubarb Festival in Perry — near the watery Canadian border — is one of the newest festivals in Maine but just as tasty. You’ll be amazed at the many food and drink recipes that include this tart vegetable. There’s even a rhubarb stalk-eating contest.
Demonstrations show you how to harvest, prep, preserve, and create meals from rhubarb. As the event creator says, “Learn about the most versatile, underappreciated, and underutilized vegetable in Maine.”
The Maine Cheese Festival introduces you to more than 80 cheesemakers throughout the state. From Asiago to Teleme, you can try different tastes and textures while learning how to pair cheese with other foods and fine wines. Additionally, you get to meet the driving forces behind cheese varieties with cows, goats, and sheep in a petting zoo.
“Even if you don’t eat a lot of cheese, but you want to know how to put together a cheese board, a Charcuterie board, things like that… there are a lot of pairing concepts that people might find interesting.”Rob Dyer, Executive Director of the Maine Cheese Guild
Locals and visitors dine on festival food from acclaimed Portland chefs and restaurants while savoring live music performances, cooking demos on the event’s main stage, and films.
The highlight is the bounty of Maine’s waterfront — fresh oysters, lobster, and other seafood direct from Portland Harbor providers. From its own Oyster Festival to the Lobster Chef of the Year competition, it’s a delicious showcase of Portland’s thriving food scene paired with its rich seafaring heritage.
If you’re looking for one of the more unique food festivals in Maine, Portland also hosts Maine Fungi Fest in May, celebrating “All Things Fungi, Plant-Based Healing, and Evolving Consciousness.”
For over 70 years, Rockland has hosted the world’s largest celebration of clawed crustaceans — the Maine Lobster Festival. This lively summer event turns the city into the epicenter of lobster fanfare for five days.
Thousands indulge in freshly caught lobster prepared in every way imaginable while enjoying seaside entertainment and carnival rides.
The event is rounded out by lobster crate races, a tent just for Maine-made beverages, and the crowning of the Maine Lobster Festival Delegate.
TIP: Rockland is also well known for its Pies on Parade event with competing inns from Rockland and Camden offering 45 flavors of pie.
I can’t make any promises about Bigfoot, but there surely won’t be any vampires near Skowhegan during Maine’s Garlic Fest. It’s held on the island of Lake George, which is a lesser-known but truly stunning Maine lake. The festival is held at the peak of fall foliage, which lines the park.
When you’ve had your fill of garlic and other locally grown produce, you can take a paddle on the lake or enjoy one of the hiking trails in the surrounding area.
Another festival you “knead” to attend in Skowhegan is the Maine Artisan Bread Festival. From basic bread to fancy fougasse, baking lessons, and best practices are shared alongside pastries, donuts, jams, and spreads.
NOTE: Skowhegan is pronounced “SCOW-heegan.”
The South Berwick Strawberry Festival comes at the peak of the strawberry harvest season. Buy them by the bushel or design your own shortcake under the strawberry tent. The small town of South Berwick draws a big crowd of more than 20,000 people each year for the festival.
Live entertainment, an inflatable playground, and craft vendors line the walkway. Plus, you can volunteer the day before the festival to help hull the strawberries (remove the stems). Did you know that there’s a right and wrong way to remove the stems??
Since 1965, Yarmouth has hosted the Yarmouth Clam Festival. In 2022, the festival went through 217 gallons of oysters along with 1 ton of French fries! Shucking contests and a clam parade bookend live music throughout the weekend. Paint a clamshell, then sit back and enjoy the fireworks.
TIP: This festival attracts about 100,000 people. Get there early!
Maine’s Small-Town Food Festivals Keep Crowds Coming
There are a few things to keep in mind about Maine seafood and culinary festivals. First, most of the small-town festivals benefit local non-profits, putting your dollars to good use.
Second, check the festival website to see what payments are accepted since some only accept cash. Finally, it’s important to check the social media sites for each festival to get the most up-to-date information.
Consider a trip to Maine for the holidays when even more festivals kick off statewide. Any time of year, you can bet a Maine festival will have incredible food and an abundance of fun.