DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — After many festivals, fairs, and other events in Maine were canceled or forced to go virtual in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mainers were holding out hope for a return to in-person events in 2021.
However, a recent surge in cases is again leading to event adaptations or cancellations.
Maine Whoopie Festival organizers announced in a release Thursday they have canceled the 2021 event due to the rising number of cases in Piscataquis County.
The festival, which celebrates Maine's official state treat, had been scheduled to be held on Oct. 2 at the Piscataquis Valley Fairgrounds.
"This is not a decision we made lightly or happily," Patrick Myers, executive director of the Center Theatre and one of the organizers of the event, said in Thursday's release. "We had planned to have the festival at the fairgrounds to give us the best chance to have it safely, but we have been watching the steep increase in cases in our community. After discussing the conditions with Northern Light Mayo Hospital, the Center Theatre Board of Directors decided that the only responsible decision was to cancel the festival."
The Maine Whoopie Pie Festival is the largest annual fundraiser for both the Piscataquis Chamber of Commerce and the Center Theatre for the Performing Arts.
"Given the recent increase in the COVID-19 positivity rate, NL Mayo Hospital leadership encouraged and are supportive of the decision to cancel the Maine Whoopie Pie Festival this year," Marie Vienneau, president of Northern Light Mayo Hospital, said in Thursday's release. "In recent weeks, our numbers have exceeded the surge we saw last January. The Delta variant is making a big impact, especially in our county. It is more important now than ever that we remain vigilant by avoiding large group gatherings, masking when indoors, and considering the vaccination. We are as sad to see this event cancelled as many of you are but the health and wellbeing of our community remains our top priority."
As of Thursday, Sept. 2, Piscataquis County, along with ten other Maine counties, is categorized as having "high" community transmission of COVID-19, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The cancelation of the festival comes a day after organizers of the 2021 Common Ground Country Fair decided to cancel that event, also citing risks associated with COVID-19.
Looking ahead, the Cumberland Fair is scheduled to begin on Sept. 26 and the Fryeburg Fair is scheduled to start the weekend after that. No word yet on whether organizers of those fairs will adjust their plans.
On Thursday, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported 624 additional COVID-19 cases in the state. According to NEWS CENTER Maine's partners at the Portland Press Herald, that's the highest daily total since the peak of the pandemic last January.
As of Thursday, Sept. 2, this is where Maine stands in terms of hospitalization statistics:
- 160 hospitalized with COVID-19
- 67 in critical care with COVID-19
- 26 on a ventilator with COVID-19
- 45 available critical care beds across the state