The Damariscotta Pumpkinfest and Regatta roared back to life over the weekend, a slightly smaller edition than previous years, but one that still featured the full flavor of Damariscotta’s most famous festival.
Beginning with the Great Pumpkin Weigh-Off on Saturday, Oct. 2 and concluding with the renowned regatta on Sunday, Oct. 9, the event attracted thousands of people to Lincoln County over the course of the week.
On Sunday leading up to the regatta at noon, parking was at a premium in the Twin Villages. In Newcastle, cars lined both sides of the road from Veterans Memorial Park, extending up the southbound on ramp and the northbound off ramp of Business Route 1, almost to the Route 1 overpass.
This is the Pumpkinfest’s 15th year, and the first to involve crowds since 2019. COVID-19 restrictions forced organizers to cancel the entire event in 2020, save for the weigh-off, and it returned in an extremely limited form in 2021, holding the weigh-off and pumpkin deployment.
This year, more events returned for the final weekend including performers on a stage on Theater Street, the Pumpkinfest parade, and the regatta.
King Eider’s Pub co-owner Scott McArdle said regatta weekend was extremely good for business. Business owners he spoke with were pleased and the feedback from the public was extremely positive.
“It was extremely busy,” McArdle said. “The town was packed. People were happy. There was tons of foot traffic. The place was hopping.”
McArdle gave a great deal of credit to the organizers who put the festival together and to the artists whose work lines Main Street and highlights other business around the Twin Villages. The event draws people into town for one last shot of brisk business before the winter season comes on, he said.
Beginning Thursday afternoon, Oct. 7, more than 70 pumpkins were deployed along Main Street in Newcastle and Damariscotta.
Following the deployment the evening prior, more than 70 new and returning artists brought their paint brushes, carving tools, and creativity to the task, spending most of the day Friday, Oct 8, decorating pumpkins,
Working outside Renys Oct. 8, Walpole artist Susan Bartlett Rice worked to transform a 1,188-pound pumpkin into a moon upon which she would eventually rest a giant luna moth, the inspiration for her piece.
“I thought the luna moth was colorful,” Rice said. “I made it out of little pumpkins, cardboard, and tissue paper.”
Rice said she has participated in Pumpkinfest as an artist for 12 of the 13 years it has been held. “It’s cool to see the same artists I have seen throughout the years,” she said. “We have the same spots each year so some of my neighbors are the same ones from past years.”
On a cool Saturday afternoon, festival attendees packed the sidewalks from the Damariscotta Newcastle Bridge to the Damariscotta Baptist Church to see the parade.
Suzanne Gandy, chair of the public relations committee for the festival, watched the parade from the top of the hill next to the Damariscotta Baptist Church, said she was surprised by the size of the crowd.
“I have never seen this many people in the town,” Gandy said. “I had other people comment to me they also had never seen so many people for the festival.”
On Thursday, Oct. 27 the volunteers and committee leaders will gather to discuss what they learned and ideas for future festivals.
Merchandise for this year’s festival is still available on the festival’s website at mainepumpkinfest.com.