Maine Roots

A blog about all things Maine


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Maine Summer Favorite: The Yarmouth Clam Festival

What is summer in Maine all about to this girl?  The Yarmouth Clam Festival!  I’m not confident that I’ll be able to adequately describe what has made this festival so special to me, but I’ll do my best.

Always beginning on the third Friday in July, this year The Yarmouth Clam Festival will be Friday, July 19th – Sunday, July 21st.  It’s been several years since I’ve attended the festival (living in NC has put a damper on that), but I remember going every year, or close to it, as a child, teen, and young adult.  For me, the atmosphere at the festival embodies the best of Maine and its people – it’s welcoming and relaxed, while bustling with attendees and activities.  It highlights arts and crafts, local musicians, and dishes up great food all prepared by Yarmouth-based non-profits – so when you’re buying those fried clams, you’re also making a donation.

With family scattered throughout southern Maine, it’s no real surprise that one of my mom’s siblings settled in Yarmouth – my Aunt Nancy and her husband, my Uncle Chris.  Their home in Yarmouth was one of my favorite houses to visit – old, big, and rambling, I used to love venturing from room to room.  It was also conveniently located for parking and walking to the festival – whether we all went together or as smaller groups.  Admission to the festival is free, which is something I simply took for granted before but I now recognize as unusual and special, and all proceeds from food booths and parking lots support Yarmouth’s non-profit student, sporting, music, church, and community service organizations.

What I remember most vividly about attending the festival as a child is wandering along row after row of arts and crafts booths.  While we certainly enjoyed numerous carnival rides, watched the parade, listened to live music, and indulged in a variety of foods, the simple pleasure of browsing through pretty things in th0se booths stands out boldly in my memory.  It’s a lovely, relaxing way to spend a bit of time on a Maine summer day – drifting from booth to booth – supporting these local artists.  Then, when you’re ready for a meal and more excitement – you simply trek over to the food booths and grab a plate.

At this festival, I typically go for fried clams and french fries with a nice dose of salt and vinegar, but there are plenty of other options including non-seafood items.  In addition to food, crafts, and music, the festival has a number of events – check out the schedule here – including a parade on Friday night, a five-mile road race and kids’ fun run on Saturday, canoe and kayak races, and of course, the Maine State Clam Shucking Contest.

Maine is full of hard working, dedicated people who are always ready to offer a warm welcome to a newcomer.  Perhaps it’s this sense of welcome and community that makes The Yarmouth Clam Festival one of my favorite events.  I hope you’ll go and experience it for yourself!


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Happy Memorial Day from Jekyll Island, Georgia

On this Memorial Day, I’m writing to you in a place far from hoME – miles and miles down the coast in Georgia.  This is a place steeped in history – like much of Maine and other coastal communities – and being surrounded by that history has, on this particular holiday, enhanced my understanding of this important day and my thankfulness to those who have given, or risked, their lives for our country and our way of life.

There are elements of this place that strongly call Maine to mind – particularly the ocean and marshes – although it’s a very different coastal experience from the rocky, rugged coast of Maine.  It has been soothing to be close to the ocean again – I miss it and the outdoor activities that go hand-in-hand, being so far inland in Charlotte.  And so today, I hope to share this place with you through my post, and perhaps you’ll be inspired to come, visit, see, and do.

Nick was asked to attend a conference for work over this holiday weekend, and since they were sending us to such a beautiful spot – Jekyll Island, Georgia – we readily agreed.  We followed a recommendation to stay at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel, a lovely, luxurious hotel with a rich history.  In 1886, Jekyll Island was purchased to be a winter retreat for America’s wealthiest families – the Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, Morgans, Pulitzers, and more.  The Club officially opened in 1888, and over time, some families built “cottages” for themselves on the property.

The Jekyll Island Club

The Jekyll Island Club

Today, we would not describe these structures as remotely cottage-like.  Intended to house both family members and servants, two of these large homes have been restored and are actively used for hotel guests.  Nick and I stayed in the Sans Souci, pictured below, which was built in 1896 and owned in part by J.P. Morgan.  The other restored home, the Crane Cottage, was built in 1917 for Richard Teller Crane, Jr., and is the largest and most lavish of the cottages.

The Sans Souci

The Sans Souci

This resort effectively combines the best of history and modern conveniences – our room was both spacious and charming, with a working fireplace and stunning crown molding.  The sensation of walking along the same halls as those individuals who played such a significant role in making America what it is today is both fascinating and sobering.

Although the island is small – about 7 miles long- there is much to do and explore.  On Saturday afternoon, shortly after our arrival and the set-up at the Convention Center, we enjoyed our first on-island dining experience – at the “Rah” Bar (I appreciate their humorous spelling) on the pier directly across from our hotel.  We enjoyed fresh, wild caught shrimp and two Pina Coladas – and while the shrimp were slightly overcooked (making the peeling a little challenging) they were still quite tasty, and the Pina Coladas were delicious – the bartender didn’t skimp on the rum, a welcome surprise, as that is often the case.

Mmm, seafood does not get fresher than this...

Mmm, seafood does not get fresher than this…

On Sunday, Nick headed off to play golf with the other conference attendees, and I decided to rent a bike and cycle around the island.  I must admit – I can appreciate the irony of my selecting this mode of transportation.  I used to actively protest cycling around Acadia National Park on family vacations, and I still don’t really like to bike.  Regardless, I thought it would be a good way to get some exercise and see the entire island.  Roughly 18 miles and two hours later, my seat was incredibly sore and I was exhausted, but it was worth it, and I’m better able to appreciate why my parents wanted us to get around that way in Acadia.

Every moment on the Club property is like a scene from Gone with the Wind – from the formal dining room, with its ornate carvings and columns, plantation shutters, and view to the lush scenery outside to being outside – surrounded by old, old oak trees that are heavy with the Spanish Moss that epitomizes the coastal South.

In the case of this old oak tree, its heavy branches have actually grown down and slightly into the earth.

In the case of this old oak tree, its heavy branches have actually grown down and slightly into the earth.

Most of the bike ride was breathtaking – from my ride along the Intercoastal Waterway to the striking views of the Atlantic Ocean on the eastern side – I was able to see and experience the island lifestyle in a way I couldn’t have otherwise.  Where the Club is quiet, with the soothing grace of the old South, the Atlantic side of the island, with its wide, flat beaches, has more of the bustle and activity that you’d expect from a modern vacation destination.

Beautiful, flat beach

One of my favorite things about this area is that it still feels a bit remote and rural – it has far fewer people than a vacation hot spot like Myrtle Beach, Charleston, or Savannah, and I love that.  Perhaps that also means fewer dining and shopping options, but that’s fine by me – I’m not high maintenance about those things (after all, I grew up with only the Maine Mall to shop in).

I hope, if you decide to vacation down south, that you consider visiting this idyllic, picturesque place.  True, it’s a bit further than some of the destinations I mentioned above, but I have to say – it’s well worth every extra moment in the car, plane, or boat.

A welcome sight at the end of my long bike ride - the backside of the Club property!

A welcome sight at the end of my long bike ride – the backside of the Club property!

Happy Memorial Day!


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What do you love about Maine?

One week from today, I will be back in Maine, and I can’t wait.  Each time I go home, I experience the most incredible sense of well-being.  I don’t know how else to describe it – it’s as if the place itself reminds me of who I truly am.

I’ve already put together an ‘itinerary’ of sorts (sorry Mom, Dad, Nick, K, and Eddie – who will all be ‘privileged’ with the opportunity to participate in this madness) of places I want to go to and document for future blog posts.  I hope that excites you as much as it excites me!

With that in mind, I wanted to ask you – what do you love about Maine?  Is there something specific you’d like me to write about, and if so, what is it?  Maybe I can research it during this trip – or at least prepare to do so during future visits.

A few of the things I love about Maine are:

  • the people (their ingenuity, commitment to community, work ethic, and so much more)
  • the coast (who doesn’t?)
  • the mountains (for their recreational activities – hiking, skiing, snowboarding, etc.)
  • the seasons
  • the way Portland is becoming increasingly recognized as a ‘foodie’ city

skiers

There are two very distinct moments in my life (so far) when I’ve realized what a special place Maine is. Even years later, the clarity of these memories is very strong. The first occurred when I was about 15, driving our 4-wheeler home from a day of working and riding horses at Vienna Farm.  I was near our neighborhood, and drove up a hill overlooking a meadow.  When I came to the top and saw the way the sun filtered in through the trees, I was immediately struck by the simple beauty of it. I remember thinking that I’d never really seen Maine as ‘beautiful’ before – it was just where I lived, not necessarily special – it was the first time I could understand why Mom and Dad chose to live here and not leave. Now, as an adult, I’m sure there were other, more practical reasons as well, but as a fanciful fifteen-year-old, the beauty was what mattered to me.

My second ‘enlightening,’ you might say, came during a summer home from college as I was strolling through the Old Port. For the first time, I saw the Old Port through the eyes of a visitor – perhaps a prospective student – and the immense appeal of the place hit me at once.  I’d just taken it for granted – the charming cobblestone streets and brick buildings – the oceanfront – the great shopping – the excellent bar hopping.  And I could suddenly see why someone, anyone, would want to live here, whether they’d grown up here or not.

Old Port

Thanks for joining me in my trip down memory lane, and I do hope you’ll share a memory of your own with me, or a reason you’ve come to love the great state of Maine.  As I asked above, what do you love about Maine?

6 days to go…