DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — More than 2,000 people had flooded the streets of Dover-Foxcroft by noontime Saturday, enjoying the second annual Maine Whoopie Pie Festival.
Twenty-two bakers from all over the state offered up samples to festival-goers, who traded in small wooden tokens collected at the gate with the $6 admission fee — one token equaled one sample.
Patrick Myers, executive director of the Center Theatre and the festival director, said he was thrilled by the turnout.
“It’s a phenomenal day,” said Myers, sporting his fluorescent green official festival T-shirt. “It’s beyond our wildest expectations. It’s a great day for the theater, for Dover-Foxcroft, and for the whoopie.”
Myers estimated after the festival, which ran from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, that 3,500 people attended — up from just 500 last year, the festival’s first year. As for actual samples given out, Myers was waiting Sunday afternoon to hear back from all the bakers to get a realistic amount.
“It’s safe to say it would be in the tens of thousands,” said Myers. “I got around to talking to some local business owners, and they all said they’d been packed all day. It’s nice to know that everyone is benefiting from it.”
Al’s Pizza of Skowhegan won the People’s Choice Award for the festival competition with its traditional whoopie pie. For commercial bakers, best traditional went to Anania’s of Portland, and best flavored went to Douin’s Market of New Sharon with its brownie whoopie pie with peanut butter filling. A tie for most original went to Betty Reez of Freeport for her mint whoopies and Cranberry Island Kitchen’s Mexican whoopie.
“They’re half a pound each,” said Joe Douin of Douin’s Market. “We make a 10-pound one for parties and family reunions and stuff. We’ve given out over 1,000 samples. We’re not going to make it through the day.”
Isaac Crabtree of Monson carried a cardboard box with seven of the brownie pies in it around the festival on his way to bring them to a friend who was stuck at work.
“He sent me here to get him some,” said Crabtree. “So I have a box with a couple pounds of whoopie pies in it. They’re not all for me, though I have definitely eaten my share of whoopie pies in my time.”
Home baking winners were Vicky Bissett of Waldoboro for best traditional and Christine Richards of Dover-Foxcroft for best flavored with her chocolate chip. Most original also went to Bissett for her apple caramel whoopie.
Home baker Kara Jackson of Sangerville spent the days before the festival putting her new stand-up mixer to the test, making 20 dozen molasses with hazelnut filling whoopies.
“I found the recipe in the Moody’s Diner cookbook,” said Jackson, referring to the Waldoboro eatery, which also had a presence at the festival. “Last year we were out of town for the festival, so this year I told my husband, ‘We are staying here this year, because I want to go to the whoopie pie festival.’ I only have 20 pies left, and it’s only 1 o’clock.”
Megan Kemp of Sangerville offered up gluten-free whoopie pies with dough made from tapioca, potato and rice flours and cornstarch. She began cooking gluten-free two years ago after her 7-year-old son, Hunter, was diagnosed with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder whose sufferers cannot process wheat. Vanilla choco-late chip, pumpkin chip and traditional gluten-free pies were available to try.
“You can use that mix of flours for baking of any kind — cookies, breads, all kinds of things,” said Kemp. “We’ve really embraced cooking gluten-free. I’m so proud of my son for doing such a good job with it that I wanted to come to the festival and share our gluten-free pies.”
Besides whoopie pies, activities included comedy from Birdie Googins (the “Marden’s Lady”), music from an array of bands, whoopie pie eating contests, a bounce house and balloon animals for kids, and booths set up by Maine artisans and artists. The Junction General Store of Brownville provided a karaoke machine, and a treadmill and exercise bicycle were offered up by Community Fitness of Sangerville to burn off those extra whoopie pie calories.
Maine first lady Karen Baldacci and U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud were on hand to read the official proclamation by Gov. John Baldacci making June 26 Maine Whoopie Pie Day.
Whoopie pies have a long, storied history in Maine. Some accounts put the sweet treat as far back as the 1930s, when Labadie’s Bakery in Lewiston made them. Bernie LaBree of LaBree’s Bakery in Old Town has been making whoopie pies since 1955. The traditional, peanut butter, red velvet and carrot cake varieties the bakery gave away at the festival Saturday were testament to their commitment to the iconic Maine treat.
“We started making them because people wanted them,” said LaBree. “Now we have all these different kinds, and they’re all good and different. It’s really nice to see everybody here having fun and being here in Dover.”
Barbara Baude of Bangor sampled an array of whoopies — though she was partial to Isamax Snacks’ lemon whoopies and Stutzman Farms’ carrot cake pies. She has been eating whoopies for decades.
“I’ve been making them since my children were in school, and they’re now in their 30s,” said Baude. “My son and his friends would always ask me to make them for bake sales because they knew there would be leftovers they could eat for free at home.”
After a big mouthful of sweet, creamy whoopie, you have to have milk. That’s why Dave Lorenz of Bangor’s Garelick Farms staffed a booth giving away free samples of low-fat chocolate and regular milk to festival-goers.
“We brought 2,500 samples,” Lorenz said early Saturday afternoon. “I don’t know if people realize it’s free. Once they do, they’ll charge the booth. You can’t have a whoopie pie without milk.”
With the 2010 festival now behind them, Myers and his organizers are already looking forward to the 2011 festival.
“Somebody suggested the inclusion of fried whoopie pies,” said Myers. “There’s a lot of opportunity for growth. It can only go up from here.”