DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — It took 10-year-old Grant Lundy just under a minute and 30 seconds to swallow two whoopie pies in the youth eating contest at the Whoopie Pie Festival on Saturday.
It was an impressive performance for the first-time competitor from Bangor, who gulped down whoopie pie between bites and stopped to wipe his face with a napkin before shooting his arm in the air to announce the win.
“It feels very good,” said Lundy, whose grandparents live in Dover-Foxcroft. “Like, very good. At first I didn’t know if I was going to win because I saw a bunch of other empty plates.”
The 13th iteration of the Whoopie Pie Festival returned to downtown Dover-Foxcroft this weekend after a two-year hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic. A virtual version of the event took place in 2020 and 2021. What began as a small fundraiser in the Center Theater parking lot in 2009 has grown into Piscataquis County’s largest annual event, attracting thousands of Mainers and overseas visitors each year.
“I was very concerned about the heat in terms of attendance and whoopie pies don’t always thrive well in the heat,” said Patrick Myers, executive director of the theater, which organizes the event with the Piscataquis Chamber of Commerce. “But people really enjoyed it.”
Attendance figures weren’t immediately available, but Myers has never seen so many people congregate in the small town, and “everything indicated this was record-breaking,” he said.
A section of East Main Street was closed to make room for about 20 bakers selling whoopie pies and vendors selling a variety of Mardi Gras favorites. Artisans and makers – some from Texas – sold handmade wooden creations, soaps, wreaths and more.
The Piscataquis County-based Doughty Hill Band performed songs. Dover True Value hosted Dan Burns, an Augusta-based chainsaw carver, for their second house show and was giving away one of his pieces. A kids’ zone featured bouncy castles, a bungee trampoline, and rides on a mechanical bull. Conjuring Carroll, a magician from Embden whose real name is Carroll Chapman, made balloon animals for children and put on a magic show.
“It’s nice to be back doing what I love,” said Chapman, who donned a bright pink shirt with bananas and has been attending the festival since its inception.
Forever Whoopies owner Michelle Emery of Fairfield sold Whoopie Pie holiday ornaments, earrings, keychains and magnets at her stall. She started making whoopie pies for her children’s bake sale at school, which later grew into her craft business and attended events like the Whoopie Pie Festival.
Down the street, Abigail Hall of the Garland Christian Fellowship drew a green dragon on the face of a little boy named Even Washington. The festival marked the first time Even and his siblings tried a whoopie pie, his father Jonathan Washington said. The family is from the Philadelphia area.
Vail’s Custom Cakes and Icelandic Bakery, based in Dover-Foxcroft, offered whoopie pies in a variety of flavors, from chocolate peanut butter to lemon blueberry and cream cheese to vegan vanilla Oreo. By 1 p.m., the bakery was down to just two flavors.
“We can’t keep up,” said Charlie Vail, smiling, and called the customers. He and his wife Jen Vail are co-owners of the family business.
In the afternoon, many bakers ran out of whoopie pies. Crowd-favorites at Sweetie Pies from Dexter included the orange cream, lemon and Bismarck flavors, said owner Heather Villone. Parkman’s Mum’s Gluten Free Kitchen offered 19 gluten-free options, including coconut, coffee, and mint whoopie cakes.
Teens and adults also participated in whoopie pie eating contests. Tyler Wing of Sangerville and Bryan Lowder of North Carolina took those wins. Lowder, who works seasonally at Acadia National Park, decided to check out the festival after hearing about it on the radio — and it didn’t disappoint, he said.
Annie Raynes, 17, from Dover-Foxcroft, has been attending the festival since she was about 5 years old. This year’s version is better than ever, she said while queuing for a lemonade and eating a red velvet flavored whoopie pie.
“Dover is a pretty small town but it attracts a lot of different people,” she said. “That’s probably my favorite part.”