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First, if you're a tourist visiting our state we want to thank you. Having chosen Maine as your vacation destination, you should also be congratulated.
For over 100 years people who just know things like where to go when the weather gets unbearably hot and humid have consistently chosen Maine as the place to be in summer. For more than a century we’ve been known for our summers that feature warm, dry days and cool, comfortable nights. >From our miles of breathtaking oceanfront to our hundreds of sparkling lakes some our visitors conclude that Maine has more than enough scenery to go around.
They say it’s not bragging if it’s true and it’s a known fact that some of the best sailing ever done with the aid of ocean breezes has been done off the coast of Maine in summer. The finest and freshest seafood available anywhere is available everywhere in one of our many restaurants and fish shops all up and down our coast.
Even in the area of gifts and souvenirs Maine plays second fiddle to no one. Our many shops and boutiques feature some of the finest products that Chinese workers have ever made.
But such ideal retreats don’t come about by accident. Hosts probably aren’t supposed to talk about such things in front of their newly-arrived guests but I thought you would like to know a little about how hard we Mainers work all fall, winter and spring just to be ready for your arrival summer.
Even the business owners who flee to Florida for the winter spend most of their time down there making detailed plans for their next tourist season here in Maine. Some of these business owners say they’re so busy working on these plans that they hardy notice Florida’s warm un-New England-like wintertime weather.
Mainers who want to do business with tourists have always had unique ways of going about it – of ‘connecting.’ Over the years some have built simple, no-frills cabins or clean, comfortable cottages with cozy fireplaces located by the water – all to rent out by the week or by the month to our summer visitors. Some will buy a classic 19th century Sea Captain’s house in one of our coastal villages and turn the big old house into a pleasant Bed and Breakfast. They’ll spend the rest of their lives trying to make back the fortune they spent on the place but claim all-the-while that they’re making a lot of friends in the process. Ask then; they’ll tell you.
Other more practical Mainers might turn their attention to designing and building skiffs and sail boats to sell on the lawn in front of the house.
Those less-skilled in the woodworking craft spend their winter hours making whirly-gigs in different shapes, sizes and colors to sell off the lawn in summer to passing tourists. It’s well known along the coast of Maine that nothing will bring a car full of tourists to a screeching halt faster than a lawn full of colorful whirly-gigs beside the road spinning their hearts out in a stiff summer breeze.
Folks who organize our many festivals brag about the fact that they begin work on next year’s festival before this year’s festival ends.
Some of you may wonder: What kind of home-life do these festival people have if they’re ready to go to a planning meeting for next year’s festival before the trash is even picked up from this year’s. This really isn’t the place to be talking about a festival planner’s home-life. All I know about their planning is what they tell me and they tell me the planning never stops.
Maine has so many summer festivals it’s hard to keep track of them. That’s why you’d be wise to keep this guide handy instead of using it to start a fire at your next cookout.
We have festivals that focus on and celebrate the existence of sand castles, crafts, different kinds of fresh and saltwater fish, Maine’s tasty potato, the unique Maine egg, our clams, lobsters, Moxie, antiques, strawberries, blueberries and moose – to name but a few.
After a day of fun many of our summer guests will want a nice place to spend the night.
I think it was the great Dr. Samuel Johnson - or someone like that - who said: If you’re tired of London you’re tired of life. Here in Maine we say: If you’re tired of Maine go to bed - in one of our many conveniently located and reasonably priced motels, hotels, rental cabins or lodges. We guarantee you’ll feel better in the morning after a great breakfast at one of our many renowned restaurants and diners..
But to experience Maine you must visit at least one of our sprawling, bustling, heart-stopping, budget-friendly yard sales before you head home. Nothing says ‘Maine in summer’ like a lively overstocked yard sale. A flea market might also say ‘Maine’ but we don’t think it says it as well.
Over the years I’ve done my best to record for posterity what I’ve managed to discover about this mysterious economic institution that defines, that symbolizes, that is the embodiment of free enterprise here in Maine.
The modern yard sale traces its roots back to the development of the Sunday drive which got people to drive by houses and lawnmowers allowed Maine people to cut the pucker brush around the house and make something resembling a lawn. It wasn’t long before merchandise was being displayed on many of these lawns and Maine’s robust yard sale industry was born.
When our other industries – shipbuilding, shoemaking, paper - sometimes failed us the yard sale – often called the cornerstone of our Down East economy - got us through the hard times.
But the yard sale – like everything else in our computer age – is looking at changes. Yard sale families are being told to think outside the dooryard and develop marketing strategies for holding yard sales in cyber space.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly
throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is mainestoryteller@yahoo.com.
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