Pumpkinfest was back this year and artists swarmed Main Street in Damariscotta on Friday, Oct. 8, to turn this year’s harvest of huge pumpkins into a cornucopia of fantastical designs featuring owls and elephants, kraken and comic book characters, ships and sugar plum fairies.
Claire Sommer, the volunteer administrative co-chair of the event along with King Eider’s Pub owner Jed Weiss, said the decision to cancel last year’s festival was the right call. When the organizers started meeting in February, they looked for the elements of Pumpkinfest that were controllable.
“We felt we could definitely deliver giant pumpkins on Main Street,” she said.
Less controllable were favorite activities like pumpkin chucking, the pumpkin catapult, the pumpkin drop, the pumpkin derby, pie eating contests, musical buskers providing entertainment. And, of course, the pumpkin regatta.
“It’s what puts us on the map,” Sommer said.
But during a Sept. 10 meeting volunteer organizers decided to cancel the additional festivities. But the pumpkin art, weigh-off, and the deployment of pumpkins could still be managed safely.
Grower Edwin Pierpont, of Jefferson, even wound up setting a state record with his 2,121.5-pound pumpkin.
Complete results of the pumpkin weigh off are available on the Pumpkinfest Facebook page.
Moe Auger, who has carved pumpkins in Damariscotta since the beginning, said he missed all the other pumpkin-themed events.
“I wish they could’ve found some way of doing it,” he said.
Still, he enjoyed seeing the work of all the other artists and he liked working on this year’s creation, a 999-pound pumpkin in front of the First National Bank.
Pumpkinfest is an all volunteer event, and municipal support from the board of selectmen, fire department, and police department continue to be integral to its success after 15 years.
“We do it because we love our community and we want our town to thrive,” Sommer said.
So on Thursday, Oct. 7, the giant pumpkins were deployed. Trucks and forklifts maneuvered the oversized gourds onto pallet platforms up and down Main Street, waiting for brushes and paints, awls and peelers, to become the fleeting form of art that practically defines Damariscotta in October.
Sommer said the weekend was a huge success.
“We had a steady stream of visitors all day Saturday, all day Sunday, all day Monday,” she said.
And lots of visitors were on hand on Friday, before the official start of the event to see the artists at work.
Pumpkinfest puts out a statewide call for artists, with many returning year after year. New artists are recruited through the Maine Arts Association, and younger artists are pulled from local universities and high schools.
This year there were 57 pumpkins to decorate along Main Street.
“Every pumpkin is a blank canvas for one of those artists,” Sommer said.
Many artists, all volunteers, spend the whole day decorating their pumpkin, no matter the weather. Many spend time beforehand, sourcing and crafting props and materials even before they see the pumpkin. And sometimes all those plans change based on the characteristics of the pumpkin they are provided.
Melissa Glendinning’s hollowed out pumpkin house was made possible by first-time grower Jonathan Fortier whose 1,219.5-pound pumpkin gave her the interior space to realize her vision.
Sommer called it “an unbelievable marriage of agricultural science and creative expression.”
The pumpkins are on display until Tuesday, Oct. 19, weather dependent. A pumpkin locations map is available damariscottapumpkinfest.com.
Lincoln County Television will premiere a special 30-minute show about this year’s Pumpkinfest art, artists, and visitors at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16.
“Like every year, the spectacle of 60 decorated giant pumpkins on Main Street is a huge draw for visitors and a boon to our business and community partners. This year delivered that and more, with thanks to the dedicated all-volunteer committee,” said Larry Sidelinger, Lincoln County Television board president, in a news release.
“As one of Pumpkinfest’s Community Partners, we’re happy to offer this show, so that more people can enjoy the pumpkins now and in future viewings,” he added.