Maine’s many festivals bring out the best of Vacationland. Among the celebrations of lobsters, ships, and even potatoes, there are oddities and eccentricities among the oddest events at Maine festivals.
Whether they’re making a mess or making history with viral videos, Maine brings the fun. When you’re planning your next Maine vacation, try to schedule around some of these hilarious and interesting events.
Moxie is a soda that made history in Maine, first as a medicinal treatment and then taking the early 1900s by storm.
The taste is questionable but cherished among Mainers. The Lisbon Falls Moxie Festival celebrates everything about the famed carbonated cough syrup (did I say that??).
One of the most popular contests is Moxie chugging, where competitors must down as many drinks as possible in two minutes.
It even inspired this TikTokker to try one and let’s just say she won’t be winning a Moxie crown anytime soon.
In no related way, there’s also a Chicken Chuckin’ Contest, and this kid went viral in 2023. We hope Major League Baseball is watching.
Saying that Damariscotta goes big for pumpkin season is an understatement. The annual festival brings out some of the biggest pumpkins ever grown, some topping 2,000 pounds.
It made sense when we heard there’s pumpkin art because what a great canvas!
But did you know a pumpkin can… race?? Those big gourds are gutted and turned into boats. With creative designs and aerodynamic innovation, the shore is lined with crowds cheering on the pumpkin pilots.
Bonus points for the pumpkin boats being turned into compost so they don’t go to waste after the race.
Sunday River always has a sense of humor with events; since 1999, they’ve been “carrying” this big contest.
Husbands pick up their wives through an obstacle course nearly the length of three football fields, including a sand hill climb and mud pit pursuit. A water hazard known as the “Widow Maker” is the toughest section.
The winner gets his wife’s weight in the beer, cash equal to five times his wife’s weight in dollars, and the chance to compete in the World Wife Carrying Championship.
The town of Fryeburg really knows how to “throw” a party. The annual Fryeburg Fair dates back to 1851 and runs for eight days.
It’s a premiere event for fall in Maine. Among all the chuck wagon food and feasts, there’s a chucking contest that stands out.
Men and women line up for the throwing contest. Women cast a cast-iron skillet as far as possible, and men make an anvil go as far as possible. This contest has been drawing crowds up to 3,000 deep for 40 years.
The skillet record is 61 feet (don’t make her mad). The anvil record is 43 feet.
The Great Crate Race started in the 70s. Contestants face a string of lobster crates on the water, loosely tied together. They have to run back and forth as fast as possible. The race ends with the contestants in the water or too tired to continue.
In 2023, the winner from Owls Head conquered nearly 6,200 crates to win the lightweight title.
On the heels of fall arriving in this seaside hamlet, the Fall for Ogunquit Festival is one of two autumn activities.
On a weekend filled with haunted houses, classic car shows, and dog costume parades, it sounds like an event you’d want to bring your most comfortable shoes.
However, the High Heel Dash rises the ranks as the most popular event. Contestants must wear heels at least two inches tall and race around Perkins Cove. You don’t have to be the fastest if you have the best costume.
The real kicker is how much this contest benefits a local charity.
To be “fair,” Ox Pulling Contests are a way of life at agricultural venues across the state.
We’re giving a shout-out to Cumberland for the international competition where oxen from Canada and the United States compete.
This concept dates back to an unknown time when, as the story goes, two farmers were arguing about who had the strongest oxen. They headed to the town square to settle the matter once and for all. A new sport was born.
In fact, the oxen used for these pulling contests do nothing else all year but train and compete.
If you’re worried about the safety and health of the ox involved, it might help to know there are strict state laws and a safety guide on site.
With Rangeley’s beautiful mountains and lakes as a backdrop, the Logging Festival carves a special place into the hearts of thousands.
While honoring the state’s logging industry with museum tours, traditional massive Maine meals, and a parade, there’s a contest that compares logging skills.
The Lumberjack and Lumberjill Contest is a mix of events, from axe throwing, wood-chopping techniques, and sawing for men and women.
You can sail right into maritime history at the Windjammer Days festival in Boothbay Harbor, but there’s a fishy competition you might also want to try.
The Cod Race requires contestants to wear fisherman gear, including oilskins, and hold two slimy cod while running an obstacle course. Kids are welcome, and they’ll also love the pirate takeover on the town dock.
There’s also a lobster-eating contest if you prefer to claw your way to victory.
Aw, shucks, you knew we couldn’t get through this list without mentioning the clam festival. More than 100,000 people turn out for this weekend event each year.
The town goes crazy for quahogs, and those who want to come out of their shell can compete in the shucking contest.
It’s all about who can shuck a dozen oysters fastest. Unless you’ve tried this before, you should know a small sharp knife is involved. Maybe not a great idea for first-timers.
While not part of a formal festival, the Zombie Dash in Kennebunkport ranks on its own merit.
Zombies take over a piece of land owned by Kennebunkport Conservation Trust. Racers try to survive the zombie apocalypse through one mile of terror.
The best part? Even if you lose and become a zombie, you can switch teams and finish the race scaring other people.
Get your booty to Eastport for the Pirate Festival, and you can compete in a costume contest before rolling into the most creative competition. It’s a mix of barrel rolling and costume changing as teams of four roll their way down the street in a relay.
Teams of four take turns rolling the barrels and swapping pirate clothing. At the end, you’ll either win or face walking the plank.
In case you’re wondering, “How do people get through Maine winters?” a group in Madawaska answers that question with an annual attempt to break the world record size for an ice carousel.
The Northern Maine Ice Busters are “Just a bunch of Northern Maine working class citizens trying to beat cabin fever in the winter months.”
They carefully carve a circle on Long Lake and then power it to rotate. The community comes out for the first rotation to cheer them on.
Each year, they break the record, and then someone else (those pesky Minnesotans, most of the time) beats them. That’s just another reason to ice carousel next winter.
Something about snow and kayaks doesn’t seem to mesh, but the winter warriors of Skowhegan have added a downhill kayak event to Somerset SnowFest.
Since the lakes are frozen, the contestants ditch the sleds and ride a kayak down the racecourse. Points are awarded for clean runs, costumes, and fastest times.
Another unique competition (if you’re from away) is the Skijor Skowhegan race, where a horse pulls skiers and snowboarders over jumps and gates.
If you don’t know about it, you might be startled when a Christmas tree starts having a conversation with you or randomly starts caroling. Feel free to sing along.
Around here, it’s totally normal to talk to a Christmas tree!
Watch (or Participate) in an Odd Event at a Maine Festival
The oddest events at Maine festivals may raise the eyebrows of the unfamiliar, but to Mainers young and old these events and festivals are rooted in state traditions.
These events, quirky though they may be, are fun to watch, and, for some, they’re even more fun to participate in.
So prepare yourself for wife-carrying, singing Christmas trees, grab a Moxie, and keep your eyes peeled for zombies. You can see all of that and so much more at these excellent events and there are plenty more annual Maine festivals to explore throughout the year too.