Each year, the Damariscotta Pumpkinfest & Regatta continues to grow into what has become the not-to-be-missed autumn event in New England. What started as a pumpkinboat race among friends has evolved into a 10-day event that celebrates the pumpkin in all its forms.
This year’s Pumpkinfest begins the weekend of Oct. 1, when pumpkin growers – both volunteer and professional – bring their giant gourds to Damariscotta to be weighed in. For the next nine days, through the Columbus Day weekend holiday, these pumpkins become the stars of Pumpkinfest, as pumpkinboats in the Regatta (Sunday, Oct. 9), ammo for the catapult and slingshot (Sunday and Monday, Oct. 9-10), and works of art that line the streets of the Twin Villages of Damariscotta and Newcastle and beyond.
Once the pumpkins find their homes in the Twin Villages, more than 60 area artists will go to work Friday, Oct. 7, painting and sculpting the giants into fanciful figures ranging from giant cheeseburgers to Smokey Bear, strawberries, puffins, and more. The imagination and artistry is amazing, and viewing the pumpkin art alone makes a trip to the Twin Villages worthwhile throughout October.
More than 20 activities take place over the Columbus Day weekend, including the Giant Pumpkin Parade on Saturday afternoon, Oct. 8, and the highlight of the festival, the Pumpkinboat Regatta, on Sunday afternoon, Oct. 9. In between, there are the catapult and slingshot, the pumpkin drop, the pumpkin derby, and more.
There are hands-on activities for kids in the KidsZone, a pie-eating contest, and a pumpkin hunt. In addition, there are activities for mom and dad to enjoy, including street “buskers,” aka street entertainment, the famous pumpkin dessert contest, and free concerts from the Nikki Hunt Band to the Hollowbody Electric Band at several venues.
There are also a number of unaffiliated events which take place during Pumpkinfest. The CLC YMCA will again sponsor its Zombie Run on Saturday morning. Boothbay Railway Village’s Family Harvest Days and annual Fall Foliage Festival will be held during that 10-day period. The Maine Maritime Museum will host Lighthouse Legends & Lore Cruises, and the Farnsworth Art Museum’s “Rockland Art Walk – The Art of Disaster” will be held. These unaffiliated events may have a nominal charge.
For the convenience of Pumpkinfest visitors who will be driving, satellite parking will be available Oct. 8-10 at Lincoln Academy in Newcastle, for those traveling from the south, and at Great Salt Bay Community School on Main Street in Damariscotta for those driving from the north.
From the south, drivers should take Main Street north in Newcastle and follow the signs to Lincoln Academy parking. Coming to Pumpkinfest from the north, follow Main Street south where signs will direct you to Great Salt Bay Community School parking. Shuttle buses will be available to take visitors into downtown Damariscotta from both locations. A fee of $1 for the shuttle provides unlimited one-day service for riders.
A Pumpkinfest app, Eventbase, is free to the public and available for Android, Apple, and Google mobile devices. The Pumpkinfest app provides the latest schedule of all events, as well as GPS and mapping to the events. Download the Eventbase app for all of the information with a press of the button. When downloading the app, find Pumpkinfest listed under the heading “festivals.” Search on “Damariscotta Pumpkinfest 2016,” where you will find all events listed by day and date.
This year, Damariscotta Pumpkinfest & Regatta has partnered with the Boothbay Railway Village, the Maine Maritime Museum, and the Farnsworth Art Museum for the first annual Maine’s Pumpkin Trail, a 50-mile-long, event-filled tour of museums and festivals held during autumn. To find out more about Maine’s Pumpkin Trail, go to facebook.com/mainepumpkintrail.
The Damariscotta Pumpkinfest is a 501(c)(3) organization with a mission to promote education to citizens of all ages regarding the specific agricultural science required to grow giant pumpkins, and to provide local nonprofit organizations with opportunities for dissemination of information on their activities and fundraising.