Patrick Myers did not want 2020 to go down as the year without the whoopie.

So instead of simply cancelling the Maine Whoopie Pie Festival in Dover-Foxcroft, because of the pandemic, he has transformed the festival into a virtual month-long celebration of Maine’s official state treat called Whooptoberfest.  It starts Thursday with events and information to be posted at the Maine Whoopie Pie Festival website.

Whooptoberfest will be a virtual month-long celebration of the Maine whoopie pie, in October. Photo courtesy of the Maine Whoopie Pie Festival

As the festival’s lead organizer, Myers hopes the online celebration – featuring contests, videos, recipe tutorials and a map of whoopie pie makers across the state – will keep the mission of the festival alive and maybe spread it to people in southern Maine who’ve never been in person. Dover-Foxcroft is a little more than two hours by car from Greater Portland.

“By going online, we can reach some folks we haven’t reached before, and they can use Whooptoberfest maybe to find a new favorite whoopie pie or a new favorite flavor,” said Myers, who is also executive director of the Center Theatre for The Performing Arts in Dover-Foxcroft. “Hopefully it will bring people a little fun and happiness, something we all need right now.”

One of the centerpieces of Whooptoberfest will be a map of whoopie pie makers across the state. Myers said people will be able to use the map to find bakeries and see what they offer and how to order. There will also be reviews and pictures, deals and discounts.

Grant’s Bakery in Lewiston will be offering a 13th whoopie pie when you buy 12 and mention Whooptoberfest. The bakery will be making its special pumpkin and cream cheese whoopie pies during October, said co-owner Donald Grant.

“I’m glad they’re doing this to keep it alive,” said Grant, of the festival’s online transformation.

At Cape Whoopies in South Portland, founder Marcia Wiggins is happy to be involved with Whooptoberfest, partly because she’s never been able to attend the festival in person. And she’s glad to be part of something fun happening for kids, since Halloween won’t be the same this year. For the spooky holiday, Cape Whoopies will be holding a whoopie pie-decorating event for kids and parents at its South Portland bakery, outside.

The Maine Whoopie Pie Festival couldn’t be held in person this year, so it’s been transformed into a virtual celebration called Whooptoberfest. Photo courtesy of the Maine Whoopie Pie Festival

While Wiggins is happy that Whooptoberfest will put whoopie pies in people’s minds, her business is actually up during the pandemic. Walk-in business is down, but more people seem to be shipping whoopie pies.

“I think a lot of people are sending treats to one another these days. Someone might have a relative who couldn’t come to Maine this year so instead they send them a taste of Maine, a whoopie pie,” said Wiggins.

Another focus of the festival will be online contests asking people to show their passion for whoopie pies. From Oct. 5-11, it’s the Whoopie in the Great Maine Outdoors contest, asking people to submit photos or videos of themselves in some scenic Maine spot, maybe taking advantage of fall foliage. An online baking party takes place Oct. 12-18, with an online whoopie pie baking tutorial. After people have watched the lesson, they’re asked to bake their own whoopies and send pictures and videos of the baking, and of the eating.

From Oct. 19-25, people will be asked to get silly, by submitting whoopie pie-themed memes, jokes, songs or comedy videos. Then from Oct. 16-31 there will be an online costume contest, with people asked to submit photos or videos their best whoopie pie-inspired Halloween costumes.

Whooptoberfest will be a virtual month-long celebration of the Maine whoopie pie, in October. Photo by Andy Molloy/Staff Photographer

All contest entries will be judged and prizes will be awarded for the best in each category, though Myers didn’t know yet what the prizes would be. But many submitted videos and photos will be posted so people can enjoy them, win or lose.

When the pandemic first hit in March, Myers thought the festival would be able to move from June to the fall. But as the pandemic has continued and the state continues to prohibit outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people, Myers knew an in-person festival would not work.

The festival began more than a decade ago. Myers said he and others were trying to think of an annual fundraising event they could do for the theater, and his “unhealthy love” of whoopie pies led him to the festival idea. Plus, he was sort of surprised to find out that with all the festivals celebrating iconic Maine foods – lobsters, blueberries, Moxie – there wasn’t a whoopie pie festival.

So the one-day festival was launched in 2009, and it often attracts 7,000 people to the small Piscataquis County town. The festival’s launch was prescient. In 2011, the Legislature declared the whoopie pie Maine’s “official state treat.” The bill surfaced as Maine and Pennsylvania each claimed credit as the true home of the chocolate cakes stuffed with frosting-like filling.

“There is some debate over where it started,” said Myers. “But people in Maine certainly have a really strong connection to their whoopie pies.”

For more information on Whooptoberfest, go to Festival events and information go live on Thursday.

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