Maine Broiler Day, Belfast, 1949
Belfast's longest-running festival began in 1948 as Maine Broiler Day. Poultry was big business in the state and a major employer in Waldo County. Belfast was recognized across North America as a leader in the industry.
Maine Broiler Day, sponsored by the Maine Poultry Improvement Association, Maine Department of Agriculture, and Belfast Chamber of Commerce, brought together industry leaders to discuss and showcase their innovations.
In City Park displays and demonstrations open to the public highlighted new equipment and ways to raise, cook, and serve chickens. There was even a competition among growers for the "chicken of tomorrow."
In 1949 the first Broiler Queen was chosen in a statewide competition; she represented Maine's poultry industry for the next year.
A main attraction of the festival was "The World's Largest Chicken Dinner State of Maine Style." In 1957, 14,000 festivalgoers consumed more than 11 tons of barbecued chicken cooked over 300 feet of open pits. A conveyor belt was introduced in 1960 to expedite serving.
The Penobscot and Maplewood chicken plants had closed by the late 1980s, but the festival continued as the Bay Festival, with a parade, amusements, food, and fireworks.