A StoryWalk awaits visitors at the Bowdoinham recreation fields on Ridge Road near Bowdoinham Community School as part of Bowdoinham’s Ice and Smelt Festival this week. Darcie Moore / The Times Record

BOWDOINHAM — Bowdoinham is holding its annual Ice and Smelt Festival this week to give residents and families opportunities to get outside this winter.

Interim Town Manager Nicole Briand said due to the coronavirus pandemic, the events have been designed largely as “self-serve” events that people can do safely outside on their own.

The festival began in 2012 to celebrate Bowdoinham’s winter traditions of smelt fishing and other winter activities. The event has traditionally been held on a weekend in the middle of February and has featured everything from beard contests and costumed parades to an evening smelt ball.

This year the town is offering the events throughout the week up to and including on Saturday to coincide with school vacation.

One of the events called “Sidewalk Stories” is a scavenger hunt that celebrates historical places and events in the Bowdoinham Village. There are clues hidden in plain sight accessible from sidewalks or public walking areas and is a 2.2-mile walk. There are QR codes on signs that families can scan into their phones to get the next clue.

The recreation department will have photo scavenger hunts at both the recreation fields and Cathance River Trails. Ice skates and cross-country ski rentals are now available at the town office on School Street.


Additionally, the Bowdoinham Library has created two StoryWalks in two separate locations for kids of all ages. A StoryWalk is a picture book presented page by page along a walking trail. “There was a Cold Lady who Swallowed Some Snow” by Lucille Colandro can be found at the recreation fields behind Bowdoinham Community School. The second StoryWalk is on Cathance River Trails and features “Over and Under the Snow” by Kate Messner.

There are also snow globe workshops Wednesday and Saturday at 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., and also at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday only at the Merrymeeting Arts Center at 9 Main St. These workshops are free but limited to four people each. Masks and social distancing are required and participants must preregister by emailing [email protected]

Selectman Jeremy Cluchey said it is February break during a pandemic at a time when families aren’t traveling. As a parent of two young kids, “it’s so nice to have an activity like this that so many people worked to pull together for our kids to go out and do.”

Cluchey said the ice was late this winter for getting smelt shacks on the ice, which is a big part of winter for him and his family. This year’s festival offers a way for residents to celebrate the smelt fishing tradition, which is important too.

“So normally with this event everyone comes together, in the dead of winter when everyone is hungry for social activity, so at least with this we’re able to keep the spirit of that alive,” Cluchey said.

While the weather of rain and sleet wasn’t as conducive to outdoor activities Tuesday, the weather forecast for Wednesday calls for sun.

For more information about the Smelt and Ice Festival, visit the Bowdoinham town website.

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