The Maine Whoopie Pie Festival had a sweet recipe for a 2021 event but COVID-19 has totally mixed the event up once again.
As of Thursday, the festival, which was scheduled for Oct. 2, is canceled.
That means in it will not happen in-person for the second consecutive year, after the event went virtual in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"It was a tough choice but it was the responsible one to make," said Patrick Myers, one of the festival's organizers, in an interview Friday.
The festival's team head met with leadership at Northern Light Health, one of Maine's largest health care groups, which also operates Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor and Mayo Hospital in Dover-Foxcroft, the town where the festival takes place. And "based on the frightening rise of COVID cases in our community and low vaccination rate," Myers said, the health care group advised festival planners not to proceed because of an ongoing strain on Maine's rural hospitals and ICUs fueled by unvaccinated people in areas like Piscataquis County, which Dover-Foxcroft sits in.
"There are a disproportionate number of people in rural communities being hospitalized right now," said Dr. James Jarvis, a senior physician executive at Northern Light Health, during a media briefing unrelated to the festival on Wednesday.
"It certainly is unvaccinated individuals, and the fact that the delta variant spreads rapidly," he said of the major driving factors of increased hospital and ICU bed occupancy.
If the festival had happened, as many as 8,000 people may have descended upon Dover-Foxcroft and caused its population of roughly 4,000 to more than double.
Unfortunately, because Oct. 2 is only weeks away, organizers do not think they will be able to put together another virtual WHOOPtoberfest.
"I don't think there's enough time to do something exactly like that," Myers said.
However, Myers did explain that there may be a festival organizer-approved day honoring the whoopie pie this fall.
And, while business owners will miss the hundreds of thousands of dollars the Whoopie Pie Festival brings to Piscataquis County and bakers will not get a chance to show off their best whoopie pies, people are able to mark their calendars for an in-person festival, slated for the more traditional early summer timeframe next year.
That date is June 25, 2022.
"We set that date in June with a lot of hope," Myers said.
He added that his message for people disappointed about the cancellation is to encourage them to "go to their local bakers, buy a dozen whoopie pies and drown their sorrows in some sweet goodness."