AUGUSTA — How exactly the whoopie pie became a quintessential Maine treat is, according to one man very familiar with the subject, “shrouded in mystery.”

The pies seem to date back to the late 1800s, said Patrick Myers, the founder of the annual Maine Whoopie Festival in Dover-Foxcroft and the self-appointed “emperor of the whoopie-verse.”

Now convenience stores across the state carry the pies. Without fail, they resemble hamburgers, with buns that are made of cake, often chocolate, and filling that consists of a dense layer of frosting – or as Myers might say, a dense layer of “joy.”

Some bakers have pushed those boundaries. At this year’s Whoopie Pie Festival, for example, one offering included a frosting made from maple syrup and bacon bits, while another attempted to mimic the flavor profile of a pina colada.

But the notion of the whoopie pie has expanded even more in the last year, thanks to a project organized by the festival and the Maine State Museum in Augusta that asked a specific question: What will the whoopie pie look like in 2117?

Organizers tapped some of the greatest imaginations in the state. Children of all ages were invited to submit drawings and write-ups that lay out a future for the whoopie pie – because to Myers, that future seems assured.

“The Maine whoopie pie has such a great history and connection to the state,” said Myers, who also runs the Center Theatre in Dover-Foxcroft. “We know that will continue into the future. Every year, bakers come up with a dozen flavors. … A lot of people, myself included, go to the store and see the whoopie pie on the counter, and it’s got this glow around it because you want it so much.”

A panel of judges graded the submissions on their creativity, originality, artistic skill and clarity, winnowing them down to five finalists that were on display in late June at the Maine Whoopie Pie Festival and this past week at the Maine State Museum.

The public voted for the submissions online and at the museum. Also on Saturday, children were invited to the museum to sample whoopie pies from Amato’s and Wicked Whoopies and to use craft supplies to create their own visions for the pie’s next 100 years.

A PIE THAT FLIES

Emma Robinson, an 8-year-old from Augusta, was one of the children who put together a model in the museum’s atrium. She glued cotton balls to one paper plate, then fastened a second plate that could swing open like a clam shell. She colored it brown and blue.

“It’s going to fly backward in the water,” Emma said of her futuristic pie. “A pirate dropped it in the water.”

Around her were various museum displays. On the wall were the labels of old brands of foot powder, cough drops, spring water and other products from Maine. Above her was a hanging model of the glider that Harold Cooper, of Auburn, sent into flight in 1912.

Dalton Taylor Rice, 9, and Brendyn James Spear, 7, both of Washington, arrived later and were greeted by a large, walking whoopie pie.

In fact, Myers’ wife, Teresa Myers, had donned the suit of “Sweetie Pie,” the mascot of the Maine Whoopie Pie Festival. Dalton and Sweetie Pie clasped hands and did a short dance.

The boys had come to the museum with Dalton’s mother, April Moulton; and after eating pieces of whoopie pie, they soon got to making their own designs. Dalton drew a gun that would fire whoopie pies into an eater’s mouth, possibly using “an electric charge or gamma radiation.” Brendyn used plates, cotton balls and pipe cleaners to fashion what he called “a whoopie pie with handles.”

When Moulton told her son that she’d already shared a photo of him and the dancing whoopie pie on Facebook – “that’s why I became your mother: to embarrass you” – Brendyn gave her a high-five.

Eventually, Myers and the museum’s chief educator, Joanna Torow, announced the winner of the whoopie pie design competition.

Some of the submissions were heavy on the creative end. One looked like an old-time movie poster for “War of the Worlds,” in which the invaders were oversized whoopie pies with spidery legs and lobster claws.

“Evil whoopie pies … from space!” the drawing declared in bold green letters.

In a similarly menacing vein, another entry envisioned the Arnold Schwarzenegger character in “Terminator.” Above the pie was a single white word against a black background: “Whoopinator.”

The winner, though, was the least extravagant of the finalists. It received 651 of the more than 1,700 votes that had been cast. Its designer, Haley Nelson, of Cumberland County, would be winning a prize package that included $200 for whoopie pies and art supplies.

Nelson’s design featured a mauve background set behind a whoopie pie that looked like two dark brown cones sandwiched over white frosting.

“The Whoopie Pie of the future will retain many of the same elements as the original whoopie pie,” Nelson wrote. “Why change it if it is already so good? The future whoopie pie will include a sleeker look with pointed edges instead of round ones. However, the delicious fluffy filling will remain untouched.”

Charles Eichacker can be contactd at 621-5642

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