One of the joys of summer in Maine is the number and variety of local festivals, fairs, and community events of every shape and color. We discovered over Memorial Day weekend – a bit of a washout weather-wise – a fair in nearby Damariscotta Mills (just up the river from Damariscotta) held each year to raise money for the restoration of the fish ladder that allows alewives to bypass the dam at the end of Damariscotta Lake and spawn in the upper reaches of the river. Alewives spend most of their lives at sea, but each spring fight their way up coastal rivers to spawn. They are an important part of the ecosystem, providing food for both shore birds and fish, to say nothing of bait for lobstermen. They are also smoked for human consumption (though we understand they are an acquired taste.) The species has been much diminished by the dams along coastal rivers and this fish “ladder,” actually a lovely series of rock pools and small falls that the fish can easily negotiate, is an important ecological success.
The three-day festival included music, a pig roast, roasted hot dogs, a beer tent, special “fish eye” ice cream (chocolate with M&Ms) and other homemade deserts. Visitors to the festival are invited to walk up the cascading pools of the fish ladder (which actually runs through the back yards of a number of local families) and watch the fish jump their way to the lake. Here are some pictures of the festivities: