CARRABASSETT VALLEY, Maine — The weather may be different every year, but the party pretty much stays the same at Sugarloaf’s annual reggae festival.
And for 25 years the faithful who, for various reasons, enjoy the eclectic combination of the music of the Caribbean and spring snow conditions have flocked to Maine’s tallest ski mountain.
“Everyone who comes is a different ilk,” said Marybeth Campbell of Worcester, Mass., as she and friends shared a beer at Gepetto’s, an iconic pub on the slopes of the resort. Campbell and others who came from as far away as Florida to join in the festivities said the weather certainly didn’t disappoint them this year.
Jamie McCourt, of Canton, Mass., said over the years his friends have changed and evolved — grown up a bit, in other words — but one springtime ritual has remained a constant.
“Now we are married and we have kids, but reggae is the constant,” McCourt said. He and his friends have added their own quirk to the festival by skiing in dress clothes all day. McCourt said he picked up his suit at the local Goodwill store before heading to the slopes.
Joyce Lockert, who has been skiing at Sugarloaf since 1991, said each year the weather is a little different but the atmosphere of fun hasn’t changed. A former ski instructor, Lockert said the festival is really a touchstone on the calendar for her.
“It marks the real beginning of spring,” Lockert said.
For the resort, the event has become a signature event, and while others around New England have tried to replicate, it there’s only one East Coast skiing reggae festival, said Ethan Austin, Sugarloaf’s communications manager.
Asked how things went this year, as he stood surveying the crowd dancing and singing on the beach, he deadpanned, “It went great.”
But he said compared to 2012, a relatively bad year for natural snow, this year’s festival was a sellout.
Friday night, Sugarloaf and much of northern Maine got between 4 and 7 inches of snow. Then the temperatures crept back into the upper 30s and lower 40s on Saturday. The combination of snow and nice weather worked in the resort’s favor this year, Austin said.
“Obviously, the skiing is a lot better,” Austin said. “We’ve got the entire resort open, our numbers are good, our lodging is at capacity and we are completely sold out for the concert tonight.”
Beyond the music and the simple fact that the festival was marking a big anniversary, Austin said the festival’s other highlight would be the biggest fireworks display in the resort’s history which started at about 8:20 p.m.
For Louise and Marc Goulet of Lewiston, the 25th reggae festival was going to be a standout as well. The couple said they have attended about 15 of the festivals, but Saturday the Goulets were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary.