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...celebrating the unique character & culture of Maine, New Hampshire & Vermont!
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The Heart of New England
Celebrating the unique character & culture of Maine ~ New Hampshire ~ Vermont
Can a Giant Pumpkin Float as a Boat?
You’ll Find Out at the Pumpkinfest
& Regatta in Damariscotta, Maine
By Libby Miner

October in Damariscotta, Maine, means pumpkins. The Pumpkinfest & Regatta was
seeded when two pumpkin growers wanted to know if a giant pumpkin could float as a
boat. They got to work and tried a pumpkin boat out in the Damariscotta River.

The following year, after tinkering with the design, two boats took to the waters. With a
little news coverage and local grower buzz about how to promote pumpkins as more than
livestock feed, Pumpkinfest was sprouted. Since gathering its first sponsors in 2007, the
festival has turned into a big event with lots of publicity in the national and local news
and now has some well-known Maine business sponsors.

Pumpkinfest celebrates fall’s favorite orange squash as well as the spirit of fun and
community. Pumpkins begin to appear on Main Street just before Columbus Day
weekend. These are not everyday pie or jack-o-lantern pumpkins, but Atlantic Giants that
are raised by local volunteer growers who coax them into growing as big as possible.
Most reach from 100 to more than 1000 pounds, and some can get up to 4-feet tall. These
pumpkins grow so big that they require a flatbed trailer and a crane to move them.

The seedlings are handed out to volunteer
growers in the spring. Education is one of
the committee’s goals. The website says that
one of Pumpkinfest’s missions is to “promote
education to citizens of all ages regarding
the specific agricultural science required to
grow giant pumpkins.”

The pumpkins decorate Main Street, Damariscotta,
and entrances to sponsor businesses along the Route 1 corridor for a couple of weeks
after the festival. Artists work with the sponsors to decorate the pumpkins in a myriad of
funky ways and not always in Halloween attire. They are carved, painted, decorated, and
dressed up.

The pumpkins have been transformed into Smokey the Bear, the headless horseman,
people, turkeys, rats, bats, cats, bunnies, telephones, babies, coastal scenes, lighthouses,
puffins, fish, and have had steampunk, fairy tale, and other holiday themes as well as
awareness campaigns.

The festival events are free. Free parking and a shuttle are provided. There are pumpkin-
flavored goodies for sale by area businesses, and the downtown shops and restaurants
are open and tout Pumpkinfest specials or themes, and most offer locally sourced food
and goods.

A side street is closed off for handmade old fashion carnival games, a jump house, crafts,
and photo spots. The games and amusements are enjoyed for a small fee, and there are
small take-home prizes. Non-profits participate as well to provide information and

The festival kicks off the weekend before
Columbus Day weekend with a great
pumpkin weigh-in. The grower of the
biggest pumpkin brings home a cash
prize of $2,500; $10,000 total go home
in cash prizes! Later in the week the
pumpkins are delivered to their sponsors
and set throughout the village.

By Saturday of the holiday weekend
most of the volunteer artists have started
to work on their designs.

There’s a parade, pumpkin drop, pumpkin
derby (subtract pinewood add pumpkin),
pumpkin hunt, pumpkin hurl (with
cannons and catapults), pumpkin dessert
contest, pumpkin pie eating contests,
pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin-themed story hour, free children’s movie, live music, and a
lot of community and pumpkin spirit, and don’t forget the infamous regatta!

Families with young children flock to the event, but so does everybody else … orange
wigs, pumpkin costumes, knitted pumpkin hats, and silly pumpkin headgear are seen on
spirited festival-goers. Pumpkinfest gear, tee shirts, hats, and bags are available for sale.
Who knows what the organizers will think up next to add to this crazy pumpkin event.

With more than 200 volunteers, it is well-organized. Downtown can be crowded, and
traffic slows during the busier event times, so plan to stay a while or find a less busy time
to stroll the streets, buy a goodie, and listen to music.

Come early. Stay the weekend. The midcoast of Maine is at its finest in early October. Get
to the regatta early (bring a chair or plan to stand) to find a spot along the river in the
municipal parking lot. Volunteer to grow a seedling for next year’s event. Maybe you’ll be
the winner of a cash prize for growing the biggest pumpkin. Learn how to build a
pumpkin boat. Eat a pumpkin whoopie pie. Build a pumpkin derby car. Come see the
pumpkins. You never know what will come to life on them!

Get the scoop at
Damariscotta Pumpkinfest.
Giant pumpkins
are carved, painted,
and dressed up.