BUCKSPORT, Maine — The costumes may have been frightful, but the weather definitely was not.
Heavy rain and wind on Saturday prompted Ghostport organizers to postpone the Halloween-themed festival’s events until Sunday, when a brilliant sun and blue sky made the previous day’s weather seem like a bad dream.
The decision proved to be a good one as several hundred people came out Sunday to enjoy the mild temperatures along Bucksport’s waterfront and take in the fun.
Bucksport has held events in the past at the same time that the annual Fright at the Fort events are held across the Penobscot River at Fort Knox, but this was the first year the town and local Chamber of Commerce pieced the elements together into the Ghostport Ghoulish Fall Festival. The idea, festival organizers said Sunday, is to help attract into downtown Bucksport some of the thousands of people who attend the fort event every October.
“If none of them come into town, how does that help us?” said Leslie Wombacher, organizer of the Ghostport festival’s coffin races. “Really, I’m just hoping it will get in everyone’s mindset that this is going on.”
Lisa Whitney, Bucksport’s mayor, who served as a judge during the coffin races, said Sunday’s “exquisite” weather should help boost the event’s profile. Her cheesy chicken corn chowder was the only entry in the festival’s chowder cook-off, she said.
“This is to try to generate more interest [in Bucksport],” she said. “I see this becoming a bigger and bigger event each year.”
The events lasted a few hours and attracted people of all ages. Besides the coffin races and chowder cook-off, there also was a family “Little Witches” parade and a witch-themed treasure hunt. Another ghoul-themed parade in Bucksport is planned for this coming Friday, Whitney said.
Of particular interest to several boys — who got to activate the device — was a trebuchet that flung pumpkins into the Penobscot River.
Most of the pumpkins ended up in the river, anyway. Some flew or rolled backward away from the river without doing any harm while one or two others ended up on the rocks a few feet in front of the device.
Trebuchet builder Bill Crawford and a few assistants had to test it and make adjustments before they achieved several successful flings in a row. A sling made of denim ripped and had to be replaced with a doormat made of fishing rope before festival-goers had a chance to let the gourds fly.
Crawford said it took him three weekends to construct the trebuchet, which he tested at home with basketballs before bringing it to the waterfront. He said he started with 400 pounds of bagged sand and gravel in the device’s counterweight but decided to lower the weight to 300 pounds. Most of the pumpkins flung Sunday landed in the river 60 to 70 yards offshore, he estimated.
“We were going for distance, but it just didn’t release right,” Crawford said.
Alex Fogg, 15, of Bucksport donated a few dollars to the Chamber in exchange for being allowed to pull the rope that activated the device. He said it was his first time operating a trebuchet.
“I think I’m close to being an expert on firing them now,” Fogg said. “It was fun.”
The coffin races attracted a cheering crowd to the parking lot behind the town office. Three teams competed, taking turns racing the length of the parking lot in wheeled beds or carts that were made up to look like coffins. Each team had four runners and one passenger.
In the timed events, Jeri Ball’s team came in dead last. But it was named the event’s most creative team for its costumes and concept. Riding in the coffin was a wealthy cadaver, complete with a bloody hatchet stuck in her chest, while the runners were dressed as her servants — a gardener, a chef, a butler and a maid.
Ball, the pale-faced chef, said she had fun dressing up but will be better prepared if she competes again next year.
“If I do, I’m definitely going to do some running ahead of time,” she said.
The 10th annual Fright at the Fort across the river at Fort Knox in Prospect wraps up next weekend, running 5:30-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 30-31.