Break out those stretchy pants you packed away after Thanksgiving, and get to work building up that appetite; it’s almost time for the fourth annual Maine Whoopie Pie Festival!

In just a few weeks, the streets of Dover-Foxcroft will be teeming with Mainers and others in search of the ultimate sugar fix. Since the festival’s inception in 2009, thousands of people – 2,500 last year, and more than 3,500 the year before that – have flooded into the small Piscataquis County community for the annual event.

Festival organizer Patrick Myers said people cross the border from Canada and even hop planes from across the country to get a taste of Maine’s official state treat during the festival.

“I had one woman call me from Colorado to find out when the festival would be this year. She had stumbled upon us by accident during her vacation here last summer and wanted to make sure she scheduled this year’s vacation so she could come again,” said Myers.

Among those to converge upon the town will be dozens of whoopie pie bakers from throughout the state of Maine and beyond, all sharing samples of their gooey goods with the hungry masses. Myers expects more than 40 bakers this year, twice last year’s number.

This year, to further publicize the festival and, in general, celebrate the magnificent whoopie pie, organizers created The Whoopie Pie Trail, a map of Maine showing the locations of all made-on-premise whoopie pie makers registered with the festival. (See map on this page. Note to self: If map does not make you want to take a road trip, check for pulse.)

While Mainers are used to seeing a wide variety of whoopie pies on the shelves at hometown grocery stores – classic, peanut butter, maple, gingerbread, mint, chocolate chip and more – the state’s many wizards of whoopie always pull out all the stops for this daylong celebration, bringing flavor combinations they hope will win them a place in festival-goers’ hearts, and maybe even some glory.

Festival bakers can win prizes in three categories: Best Traditional Whoopie Pie (the classic black and white variety), Most Unique, and Judge’s Favorite. Some of the most memorable entries from years past include pumpkin chocolate chip, blueberry, zucchini cranberry and last year’s Judge’s Favorite winner, pina colada.

“The whoopie pie is a living, evolving tradition, and these bakers demonstrate that with their exciting new recipes,” said Myers.

The Maine Whoopie Pie Festival was born around a kitchen table in 2009, as Myers, at that time executive director of Dover-Foxcroft’s Center Theater, and a few others began planning an event to raise money for the historic theater. Myers thought it was strange that he had never heard of a festival in honor of whoopie pies, one of his favorite snacks.

“I adore them. They’re just one of those quintessential treats that you ask your parents for when you’re a kid and you see them sitting on the counter at the corner store. Sometimes, if you were lucky, you’d even get one,” said Myers.

The festival started small, with a few bakers and about 500 attendees, but has steadily grown ever since. In 2010, Gov. John Baldacci declared the fourth Saturday in June Maine Whoopie Pie Day to coincide with the festival.

“The thing I love about whoopie pies is that they’re not political at all. They’re just something fun we can all agree on,” said Myers.

Of course, whoopie pies did become political during 2011, when the Maine Legislature debated making them the official state dessert. The seemingly noncontroversial bill actually drew much criticism from blueberry growers, who argued blueberry pie is a much more traditional Maine dessert.

In the end, the Legislature split the difference by naming whoopie pies the state treat and blueberry pie the state dessert, making both camps happy. The bill passed without a signature from Gov. Paul LePage.

Another controversy surrounds the nutritional content of whoopie pies, or rather, the lack thereof. As concerns about childhood obesity come to the forefront of the public consciousness, many parents have grown wary of sugary snacks.

With schools banning soda machines and PTA bake sales, and candy bar companies voluntarily discontinuing king size offerings, could the whoopie pie be an endangered treat? Myers believes it’s a non-issue.

“It is not the position of the Maine Whoopie Pie Festival to advocate for a daily allowance of whoopie pies. Obviously, we’d all be in a lot of trouble if we did that,” he said.

“For one day out of the year, we should just be able to celebrate a snack that’s delicious, fun and traditional without feeling bad about it. We can worry about working it off later.”

For those who are worried about it, though, there will plenty of opportunities to burn off those whoopie calories, starting with a 3K fun run/walk at 8:45 a.m. on the day of the festival. The Amazing Whoopie Pie Race, a scavenger hunt, also promises to get hearts pumping.

In addition, representatives from the Piscataquis Regional YMCA will be on hand to lead kids in games and activities throughout the day, and bounce houses will allow very small children to jump their sugar rushes away before the drive home.

Perhaps the most contentious issue surrounding whoopie pies, though, is the question over whether or not they originated in Maine. While many Mainers are fiercely protective of their state treat, some outsiders are equally convinced that the creamy cakes came from Massachusetts or Pennsylvania’s Amish community.

One popular theory is that the whoopie pie was born in 1925 at Lewiston’s own Labadie’s Bakery on Lincoln Street.

“The question over where whoopie pies came from is one of those great spiritual debates, like ‘which came first, the chicken or the egg?’ I don’t think we’ll ever know where the whoopie pie is truly from, but like many others who may not have been born here, its soul resides in Maine,” said Myers.

The Maine Whoopie Pie Festival takes place on June 23, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., in the streets of Dover-Foxcroft. Performers and vendors will be located right along Route 15, with the tasting arena near the center of town. The $5 admission fee gets you four free tokens to sample whoopie pies, and additional tokens can be purchased for 25 cents apiece.

Be sure to say “hi” to Sweetie Pie, the official Maine Whoopie Pie Festival mascot.

While in Dover-Foxcroft . . .

Low’s Covered Bridge

Route 15

Make a short detour on your way to or from the festival to see this piece of history.

Located just off Route 15 south of Guilford Village, this bridge, built in 1857, was washed away by a flood in 1987. A modern covered bridge, patterned after the original, was built on the original abutments in 1990. The bridge spans 120 feet over the Piscataquis River.

Peaks Kenny State Park

401 State Park Road, Dover-Foxcroft

(207) 564-2003

What better way to use up those excess calories than to spend the afternoon exploring a state treasure. This 1,600-acre state park lies on the shores of Sebec Lake, offering day visitors and campers a peaceful, wooded setting in which to enjoy boating, fishing, swimming, hiking and picnicking.

Foxcroft Golf Club

84 Foxcroft Center Road, Dover-Foxcroft

(207) 564-8887

If hiking or canoeing isn’t your thing, why not hit a few balls? Located right in Dover-Foxcroft, the Foxcroft Golf Club is a nine-hole regulation length course, measuring 3,136 yards from the longest tees.

Blacksmith Shop Museum

100 Dawes Road, Dover-Foxcroft

(207) 564-8618

Step back in time in this restored Civil War era blacksmith shop, built in 1863 by horse trainer Nicholas Chandler. The museum retains much of its original equipment, including the forge, ox-lifter, anvil and various agricultural tools.

Maintained by the Dover-Foxcroft Historical Society, the Blacksmith Shop Museum is on the National Register of Historic Places. Open daily from May through October.

Center Theater

20 East Main St., Dover-Foxcroft

(207) 564-8943

All proceeds from the Maine Whoopie Pie Festival go to support this historic theater, which has seen a renaissance over the last six years as a local center for the performing arts. When not in use for a concert or stage production, the Center Theater screens films.

Festival filling

The Maine Whoopie Pie Festival takes place on June 23, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., in Dover-Foxcroft. Performers and vendors will be located right along Route 15, with the tasting arena near the center of town. The $5 admission fee gets you four free tokens to sample whoopie pies; additional tokens can be purchased for 25 cents apiece.

This Whoopie Pie Trail map created by Maine Whoopie Pie Festival organizers highlights the whoopie pie makers registered with the festival — and offers a decadent road trip for whoopie pie lovers up for a challenge. There are many good whoopie pie makers in Maine not on the festival’s map, including Labadie’s Bakery in Lewiston, which has taken part in the festival but had not registered for inclusion on the map as of last week. We added them to our map today because of their 87-year history of whoopie pie making, according to owners, which puts them in contention as the first commercial whoopie pie maker ever. All makers on the map welcome visitors, but calling ahead to ensure they’re open is encouraged.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.