Houlton’s Midnight Madness draws 7,000

2 weeks ago

HOULTON, Maine — It was a Midnight Madness extravaganza of glitz, scents, food, music and neon-lighted bubble shooters as 7,000 people packed into several blocks on Houlton’s historic downtown square on Wednesday night.

The annual town event that draws thousands, many returning home for the July 4 holiday, was among the best so far, according to several festival-goers who had not been back to the event since COVID-19. 

“Oh my goodness. We knew it was going to be big this year. But it exceeded all of our expectations with numbers up at least one-third,” said organizer Jane Torres, executive director of the Greater Houlton Chamber of Commerce.

This was the first year they tried having two live bands on Market Square, Torres said. 

“It proved to be a great draw and a model we will follow in future years,” she said. 

With live bands on tap, rows of street vendors, foods from fried dough topped with confectioner’s sugar to burgers and Maine red hot dogs, families, friends, dogs and onlookers were enjoying the summer blow-out.

By early evening, Andrew Savage, a Houlton Chamber of Commerce volunteer, had been cooking burgers and dogs on the grill nearly nonstop, he said.

And by 8 p.m., the chamber food booth had sold out, Torres said.

For as long as most residents can remember, the town has closed off traffic to the downtown square for Midnight Madness that began as a bargain retail event. In its earliest days, shop owners would open after hours and as the night progressed the deals got better.

That’s when guys would buy engagement rings, Torres said.

Over the years, the bargain shopping event has transformed into a not-to-miss street fair that kicked off on Tuesday with the annual Strawberry Shortcake Sale which sold more than 700 this year.

After dark, the famed fireworks show seemed more like a grand finale for more than 15 minutes. The crowds thinned quickly following the fireworks show, but many stayed downtown for the Karaoke Showdown in the Temple Theater that began at 10 p.m.