Sure, you could take Mom out for brunch or dinner; she surely deserves it. But why not up the ante this year with a full-blown party that she doesn’t have to host, plan, or cook for? And who isn’t ready for a celebration? Food. Music. Fun. We’re talking about taking Mom to a New England food festival to celebrate her and the great bounty of our region, where you can slurp oysters, gulp chowder, taste cheddar, and enjoy a lobster in sight, sound, and smell of the ocean.
Skip the flowers and hand Mom an invitation to one of these fun food fests, and a promise to make all the trip arrangements.
Maine Lobster Festival
Lobster, lobster, lobster. There will be lobster rolls, lobster mac ‘n’ cheese, lobster bisque, lobster stuffed risotto balls, lobster wontons, and traditional lobster dinners at this annual festival held in Rockland, Maine.
The event goes back to 1947, launched to lure summer visitors back into the area after the war. The first fest offered “All the lobster you can eat for $1.” That’s changed (they predictably lost money that year), but some things remain the same. A Sea Goddess is still crowned; a grand parade marches down Main Street, and there’s plenty of lobster to be eaten. There’s also a slew of other fun events scheduled for this year’s five-day event, including the popular lobster-eating contest (who can shell and eat a 1½-pound lobster the fastest?) a cod-carrying race (with real 12-pound fish), a lobster diaper derby (a crawling race for the little tykes), a seafood cooking contest, a Steins and Wine beer and wine tasting event ($30), arts and crafts, and live entertainment. Aug. 3-7, www.mainelobsterfestival.com
Boston Seafood Festival
Ahoy, my friends! Keep an eye out for roving pirates (friendly, of course) as you make your way down the wharf. This fun-loving event, showcasing Boston’s rich maritime history and strong ties to the fishing industry, is held at Boston Fish Pier, the oldest working fish pier in the country. Since 2012, the nonprofit Boston Fisheries Foundation has hosted the family-friendly event, honoring Boston’s seafood heritage.
Come cheer the competing oyster shuckers; learn how to filet a fish, and watch well-known local chefs prepare their favorite seafood recipes. Of course, the bounty of the sea takes center stage under the food tent, with seafood samplings, along with a traditional lobster bake. Mom’s not much of a seafood lover? No worries: there will be plenty of other non-seafood choices, a Harpoon beer tent, and live entertainment. Aug. 7, www.bostonseafoodfestival.org
Milford Oyster Festival
There will be a whole lot of slurping going on at this rollicking party in honor of Milford’s sweet-tasting bivalves. In its 48th year, the Connecticut festival is considered one of the best and biggest in the state, drawing some 30,000 to 40,000 people to downtown Milford.
More than 30,000 oysters will be locally harvested for the festival, which will also feature a craft beer and wine garden and food court for non-oyster lovers. The oyster-shucking contest is a highlight, drawing competitors from around the country.
There will also be canoe and kayak races, a classic car exhibition, a Coast Guard flotilla, live entertainment on two stages, plus a children’s stage, amusement rides, and 200 or so arts-and-crafts exhibitors. Consider coming the night before to attend Oyster Eve, a quieter event with food, craft beer and wine, and live entertainment. Aug. 20, www.milfordoysterfestival.com
Portsmouth Chowder Festival
Everyone’s got an opinion about New England chowder. Thick or thin? Creamy or clear? White or red? Potatoes or corn? You and Mom can vote for your favorite version at this seacoast New Hampshire festival, one of the oldest and largest chowder-tasting events in New England. Now in its 36th year (after a two-year hiatus), the Prescott Park Arts Festival’s WOKQ Chowder Festival is held at pretty Prescott Park, overlooking the water in downtown Portsmouth.
Take your time; walk among the gardens, watch the boats cruise in and out of the harbor, listen to live music, and sample 12 or so chowders competing for the Golden Ladle and significant bragging rights. In the past, chefs have offered a variety of recipes, traditional and not-so-traditional, such as smoked scallop chowder and spicy seafood chowder. There’s a People’s Choice award and the Judge’s Choice award. The last time the festival was held, The River House Restaurant in Portsmouth took both honors. Will they do it again? You be the judge! June 4, www.prescottpark.org/event/36th-annual-wokq-chowder-festival
Machias Wild Blueberry Festival
Why shouldn’t those tasty little blueberries get their own celebration? Maine, the largest producer of low-bush, wild blueberries in the country, throws a party in their honor every year during the height of harvest season.
Head to Machias for this fun-loving Down East festival, now in its 45th year. Get your fill of blueberries, in pie, cobbler, ice cream and more, along with other food items offered by a variety of vendors in two food courts. There will also be a dessert buffet.
Don’t miss the musical comedy, “Blueberries from Away” (adults $16.75, ages 12 and under $8.88), and the popular pie-eating contest, with contestants competing in four age groups. There will be live music on an outdoor stage on Saturday and Sunday, with a variety of popular acts. The festival will also have more than 200 Maine artisan booths, with handmade art, pottery, jewelry, woodworks, and more. Aug. 19-21, www.machiasblueberry.com
Garlic Town USA
Pack your breath mints and head to Bennington, Vt., for this annual fest honoring the “stinking rose.” Downtown is transformed into Garlic Town USA with two separate areas or “groves” with food vendors and local artisans. Take a wagon ride between the groves to sample garlic pickles, garlic ice cream, garlic popcorn, pickled garlic, and more.
The annual festival, held one day during Labor Day weekend, has special kids’ activities, live music, demonstrations, and more than 100 booths with specialty food items, baked goods, cured meats, local cheeses, and handmade arts and crafts. Sept. 3, www.bennington.com/garlictown
Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org