[I]s there any better place to celebrate the autumn than in Maine’s western mountains? Against a blazing backdrop of forested hills, the walkable and welcoming village of Bethel — and the towns and four-season ski resorts surrounding it — host some of the season’s best and most varied festivals. From pie-baking (yum!) to wife-carrying (what?!), check out a few of our favorites below.
Live music, arts and produce vendors, chainsaw art demonstrations, a big old yard sale, and food! So much food! Restaurants from around the region compete to see who serves the best chowder — er, chowdah — while professional and amateur bakers submit their best apple pie. You get to taste it all (and if you still somehow have room, there’s a booth selling piping hot and massively overstuffed baked potatoes). Bethel’s pretty Town Common is a scenic spot to indulge in the season’s bounty. Bring the kids for wagon rides and games and crafts in the children’s tent. 9 a.m.–4 p.m. on the Bethel Town Common, with additional events around town. 800-442-5826. bethelharvestfest.com
Maine Comedy Festival
A dozen-plus stand-up stalwarts from all across the country converge on the Bethel Inn Resort for the seventh running of this annual laugh-in. This year’s lineup includes veterans from cable TV and festivals like Bonnaroo and Bumbershoot. For those who enjoy golf — but can take or leave being polite — the Hecklers Golf Tournament on the fest’s opening day is the rare opportunity to enjoy nine holes (on a super scenic course) while loudly smack-talking your companions and competitors. Special weekend stay packages available. Single-night shows $15, both nights $25, golf tournament $50. 8 p.m. Bethel Inn Resort, 21 Broad St., Bethel. 800-654-0125. mainecomedyfest.com, bethelinn.com
A two-fer celebration of the outdoors on one of Maine’s loveliest small ski hills. In the morning, join Baxter Outdoors for a 3.5-mile trail run up Mt. Abram, gaining about 1,000 feet of elevation. Autumn views of Maine’s western peaks are well worth the sweat. So’s the Baxter Brewing Co. beer you can quaff after you’re finished, when the hill kicks off its annual Oktoberfest celebration. Bring the family for music and kids activities, and bring your wallet to grab your season pass nice and early. Mt. Abram staff will be around to show off what’s new on the mountain for winter 2017 (you know you can hardly wait). Trail race $30, Oktoberfest free. 11 a.m. race start; fest to follow. Mt. Abram, 308 Howe Hill Rd., Greenwood. 207-875-5000. mtabram.com, baxteroutdoors.com
Sunday River Fall Festival & North American Wife Carrying Championship
Let’s just get this out of the way: if you’re not familiar, the wife-carrying championship is exactly what it sounds like. Spouses hoist spouses, then run a grassy obstacle course to win glory, cash, and the wife’s weight in beer (not to mention an invite to the World Championship in Finland). Wife-carrying is a spectator sport, and the sidelines are a party. So’s the rest of Sunday River’s two-day salute to fall, with a corn hole (beanbag toss) tournament, an arts and crafts fair, beer, barbecue, and a Bloody Mary tent that opens at 10 a.m. Live music all weekend includes a Saturday afternoon show by Zema Libre, Maine’s high-energy, highly danceable world-music outfit. Get your last kicks on Sunday River’s mountain biking trails, disc golf course, and zip line because autumn won’t last forever. 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Sunday River Resort, 15 South Ridge Rd., Newry. 207-824-3000. sundayriver.com