While we’re not the overcrowded coast of Maine, the three-county region — particularly Oxford and Franklin counties — draws hundreds of thousands of seasonal visitors.
The late summer festival season is in full swing, bringing color, entertainment and tourist dollars to Western Maine.
Many come for a week or two. Some for the entire summer, drawn by the mountains, hiking, fishing and opportunity to enjoy a more leisurely pace of life.
But thousands of others come for just a day or a weekend, and they are an increasingly important part of our tourist economy.
We hit the zenith of the summer festival season last weekend, with a wide array of activities for everyone from modern dance enthusiasts to pig knuckle dunkers.
While it’s not a festival, the season really begins with the TD Bank 250 in late July. NASCAR driver Kyle Busch won back-to-back races July 23 and 24 before crowds of thousands.
While the stands may be dominated by people from the tri-county region, people also travel from elsewhere in Maine and surrounding states to take in the action.
Many camp on the raceway site, and nearly all provide a significant boost for local businesses.
Last weekend included a trifecta of big events, including the Camp Creek Music Festival in Oxford, the Blueberry Festival in Wilton and the Redneck Olympics in Hebron.
The tongue-in-cheek celebration of redneck athleticism included a beer trot, bobbing for pigs feet, wife-carrying, a mud flop, toilet-seat horseshoes, greased watermelon haul and pie-eating contest.
The festival ended with a pig roast and live music.
The Camp Creek Music Festival, a scaled-back version of last year’s Nateva Festival, provided a mellow weekend of music from about 30 bands who entertained about 1,500 campers and day-visitors.
“It’ll be a family tradition as long as they do it,” enthused Sarah Nobles of Norway.
Even the police were mellow. “It has been a fantastic weekend. This event went so well that we’d like to see two or three more of these next year,” said Sgt. Rickie Jack of the Oxford Police Department.
The season reaches its peak starting Aug. 19 when the Great Falls Balloon Festival opens its three-day stand.
The 19-year-old festival attracts about 100,000 people to the Twin Cities, and is by far the largest community event of the year.
Locals and out-of-towners crowd the riverside venue in downtown Lewiston to watch the vivid hot-air balloons fill and float off into the morning and evening skies.
The festival also includes music and many booths which support local charitable groups.
The festival always results in busy weekends for the area hotels, motels, restaurants and shops, pumping thousands of dollars into the local economy.
All of these events take planning, vision and hard work to carry off. In some cases that work is done by local entrepreneurs, in others by dedicated community volunteers.
But they all boost the local economy while adding color, fun and visibility to communities across the region.