In this file photo from June 2019, participants of the youth whoopie pie contest raced to finish one half of Maine’s official state treat first during the 10th annual Whoopie Pie Festival in downtown Dover-Foxcroft. Credit: Stuart Hedstrom / Piscataquis Observer

DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — The annual Whoopie Pie Festival, which draws thousands to downtown Dover-Foxcroft each summer, is returning on June 25 — and yes, that includes a whoopie pie eating contest.

Approximately 7,000 people have attended in other years, said Patrick Myers, executive director of the Center Theatre, which organizes the event with the Piscataquis Chamber of Commerce.

Perhaps there’s pent-up demand for whoopie pies and the festival will see a record-breaking turnout this year, but it could be that people aren’t totally comfortable with massive gatherings, Myers said. Organizers are in planning mode regardless of the outcome.

After a two-year hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Whoopie Pie Festival will return this summer and be packed with food and drinks from vendors, crafters, live music and activities for kids. The festival — a tradition that began as a small fundraiser in the Center Theatre parking lot in 2009 and flourished — is set for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 25. Admission fees are $5 per person, with kids 12 years old and under free. The festival markets itself as the largest annual event in Piscataquis County.

A virtual version of the festival was held in 2020 and 2021. Maine bakeries were celebrated and promoted on social media. Patrons could use a map to find a place to pick up a to-go whoopie pie, Myers said.

“It feels great to be planning a good old-fashioned Whoopie Pie Festival,” he said, but it hasn’t come without challenges.

Some vendors that participated in previous years are now out of business, or they were temporarily during pandemic times and are trying to figure out if they have the resources to get up and running again, Myers said.

Although a fair amount of commercial bakers participate, the majority are small businesses and mom and pop stores, he said. Those have been hit the hardest, along with businesses that operate bungee jumping rides, bounce houses and other festival activities.

“They rely on summer festivals as their bread and butter,” Myers said. “And they haven’t been to summer festivals in a couple years.”

Despite the challenges, event organizers are eager to bring the festival back to town. It draws thousands of families to Dover-Foxcroft and exposes them to the charming community and local businesses, Myers said. It’s also a place for vendors and artists to sell their goods and get noticed.

The festival is also the largest fundraiser for the Center Theatre and Piscataquis Chamber of Commerce.

Whoopie pies are the center of attention at the event, but hamburgers, hot dogs and other foods will be available. Patrons may also want to stop at downtown eateries such as Pat’s Pizza, Myers said.

The Piscataquis County-based Doughty Hill Band will perform live throughout the day.

Other popular events in the past included a teddy bear clinic, hosted by Northern Light Health Mayo Hospital, and the Earn Your Whoopie Pie Race/Walk, organized by the Piscataquis Regional YMCA. Typically two races are held — one for children and another for adults, Myers said.

The Center Theatre has mainly been in charge of logistics, including organizing bakers, judges and children’s activities, Myers said. Denise Buzzelli, executive director of the chamber of commerce, works with artists, crafters and vendors, he said.

Every $5 entrance fee to the festival comes with four tokens to be used for samples there, Myers said. Bakers sell whole whoopie pies and offer samples at their booths. Once attendees run out of tokens, they can purchase more for 25 cents each, he said.

Bakers and vendors can register by contacting the Piscataquis Chamber of Commerce; a form is available on the website.

In 2019, Ashley Robinson of Dover True Value Hardware began a home expo event in conjunction with the whoopie pie festival, and the business had various vendors and chainsaw carving in its parking lot. The business wants to bring that back this summer, Myers said.

Shaw’s is the lead sponsor of the event. Bangor Savings Bank, Bissell Brother Brewing, Mallett Real Estate and others are also sponsors.

For information, visit the Whoopie Pie Festival website.