Lobster and smoked alewives, children’s’ activities, tours of alewife harvesting and an appearance by wardens from the television show “North Woods Law” are among the attractions to be on tap May 13 and 14 at the annual Alewife Festival hosted by the town of Benton.

This is the fifth year of the festival, and it promises to be an exciting event, according to Benton Selectwoman Melissa Patterson.

“It’s a nice time,” she said. “I think we try hard to hit all ages. We try to attract and give a little bit to each person.”

The lobster and alewife dinner, to be held at 5:30 p.m. Friday, May 13, at the Benton Grange Hall, is a way to recognize the small fish’s annual spring run from the Gulf of Maine upstream to spawn in inland lakes. Benton has the distinction of hosting the largest run in the state and one of the largest on the East Coast, estimated at nearly 3 million fish.

The dinner also is a way to introduce people to alewives, which 250 years ago were a fixture at tables of those living next to waterways. Years ago, Mainers salted and smoked the fish and packed it away for the long winters. Over centuries, rivers that had dams and pollution from industries along rivers hurt the alewife fishery, and the fish population had diminished by the late 1950s. With dam removals in Winslow and Augusta a few years ago, the fish started coming back.

Harvesting of alewives in May brings a lot of revenue to the town — $17,000 or $18,000 a year, according to Patterson.


Those wanting to buy tickets to the May 13 dinner may do so at the Town Office or by calling the office at 453-7191. Tickets cost $15 a person and the dinner includes lobster, smoked alewives, potato, corn, yeast rolls, dessert and a drink.

The big festival Saturday, May 14, starts at 10 a.m. and ends at 4. The festival is free and open to the public.

Most activities take place at the Benton Fun Park, next to the Town Office on Neck Road. Besides wardens from “North Woods Law,” there will be a presentation by Wind Over Wings, a nonprofit organization from Freedom that cares for injured birds; a firetruck from Fairfield with firefighters handing out gifts to children; a bounce house; face painting; miniature golf; batting cages; and popcorn.

Larry the Bulldog from Lawrence High School will meet and greet kids, as will the character Elsa, from the movie “Frozen,” Patterson said.

Alewife harvesting tours will be available on the nearby dam over the Sebasticook River, with a shuttle that will take people from the park to the dam and back, she said.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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