A previous Damariscotta Mills Alewife Festival is seen in this Lincoln County News file photo. Credit: LCN

The alewives are running and an array of festivities are planned to celebrate this awesome natural event and the restoration of the stone fish ladder, which the fish climb to spawn in the fresh water of the Damariscotta Lake.

Continue or start a new spring tradition by joining the Damariscotta Mills community on Saturday, May 25, Memorial Day weekend, to celebrate the return of the alewives. The 12th annual Damariscotta Mills Alewife Festival will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the fish house parking lot and up and down the historic fish ladder.

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Thousands and thousands of alewives will be the stars of the festival. There will be alewife viewing at both the bottom and top of the fish ladder. In addition, Russ and Diana Williams have again offered to open their yard, at the upper third of the fish ladder, so that festival-goers can see the fish up close during their ascent.

Festival events will take place in many locations around Damariscotta Mills: at the fish house, at the bottom of the ladder, at Mulligan’s Smokehouse, along Ladds Hill Road, at the top of the ladder, at Alewives Fabrics on Main Street, and at the Masons’ church on Borland Hill Road. Look for signs pointing the way to activities and maps showing the location of all events.

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5K Run with the Alewives: Kick off this year’s alewife festival by running with the alewives. What better way to celebrate the alewives’ spring migration than with an early morning 5K run? On Saturday, May 25, join family members, friends, and neighbors from across all generations for a healthy community run that includes cash prizes, professional timing, and a gorgeous course along Great Salt Bay. The race begins at 8:45 a.m. Packet pickup and race-day registration begins at 7:15 a.m. at the Damariscotta Mills fish house/ladder on Bayview Road, on the border of Newcastle and Nobleboro.

There are discounts for runners under age 14 and for local school track teams. Pre-register by Friday, May 24 at running4free.com/RaceDetails.aspx?raceid=478. For more information, call or email Bob Barkalow: 458-3389, bob.barkalow@gmail.com.

At Mulligan’s Smokehouse: Join the Smokehouse Girls for breakfast sandwiches, hamburgers, and all the smoked alewives one can eat — that is, if one gets there before they’re sold out. Every year, the Mulligan sisters and their family and friends carry on the tradition of smoking alewives in a small building set up for this purpose. Fresh alewives are brined, then strung on cedar sticks and hung in the shed rafters over a smoky applewood fire. One can buy a string of alewives in a brown paper bag for $5.

Credit: File | LCN

At the fish house: As usual, festival volunteers will be serving lobster and crab rolls for lunch, together with hot dogs, veggie burgers, and ice cream, from 11 a.m. until they run out. For ice cream, there will be the traditional Alewife Fisheye Pudding ice cream — chocolate ice cream full of yummy goodies, not real fish eyes and vanilla.

From about noon on, festival volunteers will be serving oysters, oysters and more oysters! The oysters will be from the Damariscotta River. When one purchases oysters, one will be told which oysters are from which growers farms along the river. Thanks to the Damariscotta River Grill, Odd Alewives Brewery, Oxbow Brewing Co., and Sheepscot Valley Brewing Co., people will be able to enjoy oysters and sandwiches with a cold craft beer while alewives swim by and osprey dive to catch their lunch.

Credit: Photo courtesy of LCN

Music is always a wonderful part of the festival and this year is no exception. Starting at 10:15 a.m. with River’s Edge and Sylvia Tavares’ special fish ladder song, Bobby Whear and the festival planning committee will present an especially good mix of folk music performed by a group of talented local musicians, such as Ale House String Band, Jud Caswell, and Well Seasoned. And from away, rounding out the day with a performance that begins at 3:30 p.m. will be singer-songwriter Carolyn Cotter.

Child- and family-focused activities: Children have a great time at the festival. At 3 p.m. in the Williams backyard at the top of the fish ladder, Dana “Mr. Tricks” Perkins, a professional ventriloquist, puppeteer, juggler, and magician, will present a family-friendly show filled with tricks and dialogs which are sure to put a smile on everyone’s face.

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Throughout the day there will be great kids games and science activities provided by the Darling Marine Center. Don’t miss the chance to help an osprey catch a fish or two, playing the Osprey Game. Children’s activities, including the chance to make a fish print, will be held at the fish house and along Ladds Hill Road. There will also be face painting at Alewives Fabrics.

Silent auction, bake sale, goods, and gear: As one strolls through the festival grounds, there are three stops that one needs to make. The first is to check out the silent auction table and to place bids for a set of beautiful pewter bowls, old framed maps, a painting of the fish house, a sea glass necklace created by Sylvia Tavares, and much, much more.

The second is the bake sale table where one will find fresh and delectable pies, breads, muffins, cakes, cookies, and bars made by the Mills bakers.

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Lastly, the goods and gear table will feature this year’s Damariscotta Mills Alewife Festival T-shirt and Damariscotta Mills fish ladder restoration caps in a diverse array of colors.

“Love Flows” screening: Herman Wanningen, founder of World Fish Migration Day, and Joshua Royte, senior scientist for The Nature Conservancy in Maine, and the film’s narrator, will be hosting a special screening of the new film “Love Flows.” The showing will be held at George and Susan Mason’s big yellow church, located at 123 Borland Hill Road, at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 25. All are welcome to attend.

The film, an official selection of the Washington, D.C. Environmental Film Festival, directed by Francisco Campos-Lopez, highlights the evolved understanding of the impacts of dams and the people who are working to make positive differences for rivers through World Fish Migration Day. This is a one-day global celebration, coordinated by the World Fish Migration Foundation, where individuals and organizations from around the world coordinate their own event around the common theme of connecting fish, rivers, and people.

For further information about the film, visit worldfishmigrationday.com. For information about this special “Love Flows” screening event, contact Deb Wilson at deb.wilson1028@gmail.com or 207-380-6997.

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The annual Damariscotta Mills Alewife Festival supports the restoration of the fish ladder and the surrounding facilities. The fish ladder is now fully restored, although it will always need maintenance. The next project is rebuilding the walkway between the fish house and the harvesting area, which is undermined and in an extremely debilitated condition. In the future, it is expect that the fish house, parking area, and walkways will be restored. As always, these projects are a collaboration between the towns of Nobleboro and Newcastle and the Nobleboro Historical Society. For more information about the fish ladder and/or to make a donation, contact Deb Wilson at deb.wilson1028@gmail.com.

Whether one comes by land or sea throughout the weekend, there will be alewife viewing up and down the beautifully restored fish ladder. For more information about the 2019 Damariscotta Mills Alewife Festival, contact David Brydges at db5d@math.ubc.ca or 832-1792.

Stay in touch with this year’s festival and fish ladder happenings, parking and shuttle option at damariscottamills.org.

This story appears through a media partnership with The Lincoln County News.