Bzzzzz. Thwackkk! Festivals take bite out of black-fly season

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Ahhh, spring. Days are getting longer, nights shorter, breezes warmer. It’s the perfect time to stroll through the trees, to fish in clear, blue lakes, to smell the flowers, to – ouch!

It’s black fly season again.

Even the moose are unhappy.

But Mainers are a hardy bunch, never keen on throwing in the towel because of a little suffering. We don’t just survive in adversity, we celebrate. When fires burn our houses down, do we lie down and cry? No – we hold a festival and we rebuild. When winter’s darkness gets so bad our southern neighbors leave the country in droves, do we lie listlessly inside and pray for spring? No – we have a party – outdoors.

And so was born the annual Black Fly Festival, held in some cities and towns across the state.

In the next six weeks, not just one but two nearby towns are holding festivals in honor of the scourge of spring, saying that if you can’t beat em, why not have fun and laugh at em?

The first begins at Fryeburg Academy this Saturday. Featuring a 5K road race, a black fly parade, a black fly market, a talent show, and a fried turkey dinner, the fly festival has a little something for everyone, says public relations Director Rachel Damon. It’s “a little wacky, but appropriate for this community,” she said with a laugh Thursday.

Those who come impersonating the festival’s namesake are awarded by only being charged half price in the road race, one of the festival’s highlights, Damon said. “We don’t charge an entry fee if people dress in black,” she said.

The winners are awarded black fly wings and $100 each, as well as being crowed with laurel wreaths and paraded through town on a fire truck.

And Damon said the academy purposefully schedules the festival the day before Mother’s Day every year so that people can buy nice, inexpensive gifts for their mothers at the black fly market. The day’s events are followed by a fried turkey dinner at the Fryeburg Rescue Barn, cooked by the Fryeburg Rescue. Damon says the meal is delicious.

The festival ends with a talent show at the middle school. This year, Damon says, it’s “mostly good talent.”

A similar festival, organized by the Rangeley Lakes Trails Center, is being held in Rangeley on June 25. As it is that town’s first Black Fly Festival, many details are still being ironed out. But Trails Center spokeswoman Carol Sullivan says it, too, will have a road race and entertainment by the Maine Hysterical Society, as well as vendors, a mountain bike race and food.

Black fly festivals are “really a tribute to the insect that is so prevalent. It’s like a if-you-can’t-beat-em-join-em kind of thing,” Damon said.

For more information about the Fryeburg Academy festival, go to www.fryeburgacademy.org or phone Rachel Damon at (207) 935.3527. For more information about the Rangeley festival, to go www.rangeleyblackflyfest.com or call Sullivan at (207) 864.3640.

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