SOUTHWEST HARBOR, Maine — The idyllic fall weather and the tasty selections of beer were the main signs cited Saturday by Acadia Oktoberfest attendees that the annual event was a success.
But the best sign of the festival’s success might be in the number of people who were there. Bruce Carlson, executive director of the Southwest Harbor-Tremont Chamber of Commerce, said Sunday that the group was still adding up admission receipts, but that it seemed likely the number would far surpass the 2,300 people who attended the one-day festival last year.
“It appears we’re approaching 3,000 people,” Carlson said. “It was a perfect, perfect celebration.”
The festival, held at Smuggler’s Den Campground on Route 102 on Mount Desert Island, had 21 beer and wine vendors this year, which Carlson said is not a record. But many of them brought a wider selection of beer with them this year than in previous years. He said that festival-goers, who paid $25 each for 12 beer tickets that they could exchange for samples, had between 80 and 90 beers to choose from Saturday. The brewers also brought larger amounts of product this year to make sure they didn’t run out, he said.
Besides beer, the festival featured live music, several food vendors and craft booths. And because it’s an election year, a few politicians also showed up, including Sen. Susan Collins.
For much of the day, the beer tent was packed with people sampling their favorite brews, which prompted Carlson to suggest that they might need bigger tents in 2009. He said the festival likely will have more entrances next year, to help keep admission lines short, and will grow somewhat so it can accommodate 20 percent to 25 percent more people.
Carlson said the festival has come a long way since it was first held in 1995, when a total of 300 people showed up. Two years ago, the festival drew 1,700 to 1,800 people, or about half of the number who attended Saturday.
“It’s just grown tremendously,” Carlson said.
Luke Bundy, an MDI resident, is a beer representative for Central Distributors, which sells Maine-brewed beers to local retailers and taverns in the MDI area. He said Saturday that the crisp, sunny fall weather definitely helped attract a big crowd to the festival.
“This is an awesome turn-out,” he said, taking a break from pouring samples at the Atlantic Brewing Co. booth. “It’s beautiful weather.”
Bundy said that not only is the festival drawing more people, it’s also drawing more people from a wider territory.
“We’re starting to get more and more [people] from off-island,” Bundy said. “That’s what we want. We want it to be an event.”
Jon Hill of Atlantic Brewing Co. noted that there wasn’t much room inside the beer tent, but he didn’t seem fazed by it.
“Maybe it’s a little crowded, but that’s a good problem,” he said.
Tim Gallon, owner and brewer at Black Bear Brewery in Orono, was at the event with his girlfriend, Sara York, giving samples of his beer to people who gave him tickets they had paid for at the festival entrance. He said he has been busy because he recently expanded his production facility in Orono, but that he wouldn’t want to miss showcasing his beers at Acadia Oktoberfest.
“This one we’ve done for four or five years,” Gallon said.
Though the event seems to draw more people every year, regardless of the temperature, he credited Saturday’s cool weather and clear skies for helping to pull people in.
“We’ve been selling a lot,” Gallon said. “We’re going to be done way too early.”
Bob LaFlamme of Hermon and Kathleen Carter of Arlington, Mass., were at Saturday’s event for the first time. LaFlamme said he wanted to show Carter around Mount Desert Island and decided to come to the festival after a co-worker of his recommended it.
“You couldn’t ask for a better day, weatherwise” Carter said.
LaFlamme said he prefers pilsners and lagers to the darker porters and ales that tend to be popular at autumn beer festivals, but that he and Carter enjoyed most of the samples they had Saturday.
“Of the ales we tried, most were pretty good,” he said. “There’s a good chance [we’ll return next year].”