Bangor Celebrates a Big Birthday
Bangor is holding its 175th birthday party on Feb. 12.
Unfortunately, Bangor appears to be lying about its age.
I don’t know if this historical fudging is part of some vain attempt to appear younger and more attractive to the opposite sex. I’m not even sure which sex is opposite. Or if Bangor might be gay. Or …
When Portland held its last big anniversary celebration back in the 1980s, it didn’t try to disguise its aged condition. It called the event “Portland is wicked wrinkly – even for a 350 year-old.” Or something like that. The point is, Portland admitted right up front that it had been founded in the early 17th century.
By white people.
The Indians, who’d been around for hundreds of years before that and called the place Machigonne, somehow got left out of the calculations.
But back to Bangor. Conduskeag Plantation was founded on the site of the future city in 1769, which would make this year the 240th anniversary. I can understand why nobody is celebrating that, because Conduskeag is hard to pronounce. (It rhymes with Mattawamkeag. Sorta.) But in 1791, Bangor was incorporated as a town, which makes this birthday number 218.
It must not have been much of a town, because that anniversary has been ignored for decades. What was celebrated – and is about to be again – is the 1834 incorporation of Bangor as a city. According to a timeline published in the Bangor Daily News, it was happening place. Within two years it had the nation’s second landscaped cemetery, which was convenient, because in 1849, it had a cholera epidemic. After that, things were pretty quiet until 2008, when Hollywood Slots opened its new facility.
Enough ancient history. Let’s move on to events of the past week.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the number of farms in Maine – and the number of organic farms – is growing. The department’s five-year census shows that while the total acreage of farms in the state declined by 1.6 percent from 2002 to 2007, Maine gained lots of new farmers.
The total number of agricultural enterprises grew by 13 percent to 8,136, while organic farms increased 139 percent to 534. Farm sales were up, too, by 33 percent.
Meanwhile, a group of farmers is trying to organize something called the Maine Street Marketplace, an online system that would allow anyone in the state to shop for locally grown food as simply as they now shop at Amazon.com or other online retailers.
The goal is to have the new service in place for the 2010 growing season, just in time for Bangor’s 176th birthday.
The Legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee voted unanimously on Feb. 5 to remove the bald eagle from the list of protected species in Maine.
Even if the full Legislature goes along, this doesn’t mean they’ll be serving roast eagle at Bangor’s birthday bash. Federal laws against that sort of thing remain in place, and the state is also considering increasing its penalty for anyone who kills one of the birds. There are now 470 nesting pairs of eagles in Maine, compared to just 30 pairs about 40 years ago.
Maine is still trying to fend off attempts by the federal government to require saltwater recreational fishermen to get licenses. The feds say they want licensing so they can collect data on where people fished, what they caught and if they thought Bangor should really be celebrating one of those earlier birthdays. State Sen. David Trahan of Waldoboro has come up with a proposal that would have the state ask freshwater licensees if they plan to fish in saltwater.
The information would then be conveyed to the feds, who could send surveys to some of those people to find out what kind of bait they used (hint: don’t say “eagle meat”), whether the horse flies were annoying or whether they spotted any terrorists trying to sneak ashore. Also, the state would collect similar information through a Web site, thereby assuring that this entire exercise would result in nobody knowing anything.
The recession continues to take its toll on Maine, with a legislative committee considering a measure to make employed people an endangered species. Just kidding. There are still way more employed people in the state than eagles.
Unfortunately, there are somewhat fewer of them at the Portland Symphony Orchestra.
The symphony has laid off two of its 10 full-time staffers, reduced salaries of top employees and eliminated its Independence Pops concerts in July, all to reduce an expected $220,000 budget shortfall by the end of its fiscal year in June.
To add insult to injury, U.S. News & World Report has rated Maine one of “The 7 Worst States To Start a Business.”
Although the story notes that Maine isn’t a particularly poor state, it says, “Maine’s economy is not dynamic either.” It echoes the usual complaints about the state’s high taxes, noting that, “a new business in Maine isn’t likely to be a national success story.”
So much for this idea I had for Eagleburger franchises. If it makes you feel any better, West Virginia, Iowa and Arkansas all got worse ratings than Maine.
Another team in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (motto: Bigger and Stronger Than the Quebec Minor Junior Hockey League) has objected to the franchise moving within 20 miles of its home arena in the Montreal suburbs. Until the dispute is settled (possibly by somebody paying somebody else a lot of money), the Maineiacs’ location next season is as much of a mystery as Bangor’s actual age.
Finally, a sad note for fans of hardcore country music. The Hollerin’ Man died Feb. 3. John Witham was 55 and earned his nickname by working without amplification in many a noisy Portland bar and street corner. His nine-year-old CD of gritty classics titled “Hollerin’ Man” is well worth finding in the used album bins for his take on songs as varied as Dick Curless’ “Tombstone Every Mile,” Gram Parson’s “Hickory Wind” and the Jerry Lee Lewis anthem “What Made Milwaukee Famous (Made a Loser Out of Me).”
He had a honky-tonk heart.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.