One of the things I love about Maine is its willingness to embrace weirdness. People aren’t afraid to let their freak flags fly and are even less afraid about what others might think when they do.

Now that the days are growing shorter and the weather is growing colder, the number of wacky events is growing exponentially. It’s almost as if the climate change triggers a need to don a costume, grow facial hair down to the sternum and juggle fire sticks.

In Gorham this weekend, for example, there’s a UFO conference in which people who claim to have been abducted by extraterrestrials gather to talk about their experiences alongside tarot card readers and workshops on the supernatural. Click here to read all about that.

If aliens aren’t your thing, here are some other ways to enjoy entertainment of the more unusual variety this week.

MAINE STARLIGHT FESTIVAL: This event approaches the far reaches of space from a more scientific — and statewide — viewpoint. The Astronomy Institute of Maine is bringing together planetariums, astronomy clubs and science centers around the state to celebrate the new frontier via night-viewing events, dome shows and other family-friendly activities.

As an added bonus, the famous Eartha globe — a 41.5-foot-diameter model of the Earth — is rotating again at DeLorme in Yarmouth after months of being stationary for repairs. The festival runs Friday to Sept. 16, and a schedule can be found at starlightfestival.org.

BUG MAIN-IA: Another science-oriented event, this one aimed at children. From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday, the Maine State Museum in Augusta is hosting a live insect zoo, presentations by entomologists and foresters, and more. It’s a chance to get a close-up view of bugs without them being on the end of a flyswatter. For information, call 287-2301.

SMOKE & MIRROR CIRCUS: This event’s name is somewhat misleading, because “smoke and mirrors” is used to denote trickery — a scam, a put-on, a Wizard of Oz pay-no-attention-to-the-man-behind-the-curtain tomfoolery. There’s nothing devious about the Smoke and Mirror Circus, though. The troupe, which opens its season Sunday at Geno’s Rock Club in Portland, combines antics of the big top with theater and performance art. Admission is $8. Call 221-2382 or visit the S&M (get it?) Facebook page for more info.

STEAMY NIGHTS: If you’re looking for something a bit more risque, head to the St. Lawrence Arts Center in Portland on Saturday for a night of classic burlesque by Atomic Trash!, Vivid Motion, Whistlebait Burlesque, the Dirty Dishes Burlesque Revue and more. Although this is an adult-oriented show, there’s no actual nudity involved — the performers’ naughty parts are hidden by some deftly placed objects accompanied by a sly wink and a nod. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door. Visit stlawrencearts.com for more information.

BEARDS B-CAUSE: It’s fitting that ZZ Top is playing Scarborough Downs this weekend, because their naval-tickling beards can serve as inspiration to participants in this event. Clean-shaven gents are invited to a kick-off party at Nosh Kitchen Bar in Portland at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, where they will pledge to grow their whiskers in a contest that benefits Mystache Fights Cancer. Come March, they will regroup to see whose beard is the longest. Admission is free. For information, visit beardsbcause.com.

Deputy Managing Editor Rod Harmon may be contacted at 791-6450 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: RHarmonPPH