The alewives are running and festivities are planned to celebrate this awesome natural event and the restoration of the stone fish ladder, which the fish climb to spawn in fresh water Damariscotta Lake. This year’s festival – one day only – will be held on Saturday, May 26 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. The festival may be only one day this year, but what a day it will be! As always, the fish will be the main event — it will be possible to view alewives by the fish house, along the fish ladder, in the Williams backyard, and at the top of the ladder.
At the smokehouse
Join the Smokehouse Girls for breakfast sandwiches, homemade doughnuts, hamburgers, and all the smoked alewives you can eat – that is, if one gets there before they’re sold out. Every year, the Mulligan sisters and their family and friends carry on the tradition of smoking alewives in a small building set up for this purpose. Fresh alewives are brined, then strung on cedar sticks and hung in the shed rafters over a smoky applewood fire. One can buy a string of alewives in a brown paper bag for $5.
At the fish house
New this year is a late-afternoon and early-evening chowder-and-chili meal. Starting at 3 p.m., it will be possible to get fish chowder or chili (meat or vegetarian), served with cornbread.
As usual, lobster and crab rolls will be served for lunch, together with hot dogs, veggie burgers, and ice cream from 11 a.m. until they run out. For ice cream, there will be the traditional “Alewife Fisheye Pudding” ice cream (chocolate ice cream full of yummy goodies, not real fish eyes) and vanilla.
From about noon on, oysters, oysters, and more oysters will be served! The oysters will be from the Damariscotta River and consumers will be told which oysters are from which growers along the river. Of course, there will be a variety of local beers on tap to go along with these delicious Damariscotta River oysters.
Music is always a wonderful part of the festival, and this year there is an especially good mix of great local music and a couple of special bands “from away.” Plan to pull up a chair and hang out for a while. What could be better than sunshine sparkling on a river full of fish and a great live band! Well, let’s hope for the sunshine, and don’t forget to add beer and oysters.
Kids have a great time at the festival! There will be a magician, great kids games, and science activities provided by the Darling Marine Center. Don’t miss the chance to help an osprey catch a fish or two playing the Osprey Game. Children’s activities will be held at the fish house and along Ladds Hill Road. There will also be face painting at Alewives Fabrics on Main Street.
The festival will be on Saturday, May 26, but a couple of events will be held on different days, still on Memorial Day weekend. On Sunday morning, there will be a family fun run, starting at 8 a.m. at the fish house. This will be a two-mile race around the Mills, so if one is in the mood for a fun run or even a fast walk, bring the family or come alone and join in the fun!
And, let’s not forget the Adam Ezra concert. On Monday at 4 p.m., the Adam Ezra Band will be performing live at Lincoln Theater in Damariscotta. The band played two years ago as part of the festival and they were first-rate, an amazing Boston band that now plays nationally. For a great way to end Memorial Day weekend, join in for a great concert. Beer and wine will be served.
The Damariscotta Mills Fish Ladder Restoration Festival supports the restoration of the fish ladder and the surrounding facilities. The fish ladder is now fully restored, although it will always need maintenance. The next project is rebuilding the walkway between the fish house and the harvesting area, which is undermined and in an extremely debilitated condition. In the future, organizers expect to restore the fish house, parking area, and walkways. As always, these projects are a collaboration between the towns of Nobleboro and Newcastle and the Nobleboro Historical Society. For more information about the festival or the fish ladder, contact Deb Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org.