Down East 2013 ©
Maine has its share of notable residents, but even the most famous of them keep a decidedly low profile here. Fortunately, the Pine Tree State is still essentially one big small town, so we were able to get in touch with a sizeable number of the state’s movers and shakers to get their idea about the real Maine. Their observations may surprise you.
My idea of the real Maine is lunch at Rosie’s Diner in Lovell. Especially in the fall, after the summer folks go home. Grab a copy of the local paper (the Bridgton News), sit at the counter, and order the blueberry pancakes (with real maple syrup). Bacon on the side’s optional. The cook wears a Red Sox hat, there’s a picture of Elvis over the specials board,and the locals talk politics and football while the leaves fall outside. If you like, when you finish your lunch, you can stroll across to the public library. Not bad.
Real Maine is anywhere our citizens earn a living, raise their families, and work together for a better community. Our rugged coast, our mountains, forests, and farmlands, all are unique. But it is the people who live in the different regions of Maine that make our state what it is.
U.S. Senator, Bangor
The real Maine is the spirit of community. It’s neighbor helping neighbor — people working together and taking care of one another. It’s a pride in our common heritage, and a knowledge that no matter where we go in this world, Maine will always be our home.
Actress, New York City
My time in Maine is best described as tranquil and filled with joy.
Textile designer, Portland
Sitting down at your neighbor’s kitchen table, catching up and talking about the season — the fishing, what’s growing in the garden or not, the colors outside, and sharing stories from the generations before us.
Author and syndicated columnist, Chebeague Island
My real Maine moment comes when I step onto the ferry and spend the next fifteen or twenty minutes (depending on the tide) in catch-up conversations with my island neighbors. This is the floating community hall of island life. It’s our “newspaper,” our “Facebook,” our “Twitter.” Only, it’s face-to-face. Which is the Maine style.
TV host of Bill Green’s Maine, Cumberland
I like to think of Maine as a place that is ten years behind the times and twenty years ahead of the rest of the country. It’s a ruggedly beautiful place where people have to work hard. We appreciate what we have and those we share it with.
Chairman of the Board, L.L. Bean, Yarmouth
Maine is a place where good values, good humor, and a handshake still count.
Portland Press Herald columnist, Cape Elizabeth
The real Maine is the benefit bean supper, the holiday toy drive, the collection jar at the local mom-and-pop store, and the countless other quiet acts of kindness that rarely, if ever, make headlines. The real Maine, when it truly matters, is one big small town.
University of Maine women’s basketball coach, Orono
When I was younger I was anxious for February vacation to begin because I’d wake up each morning excited to watch all of the girls and boys high-school basketball tournament games that were televised on MPBN. It had always been my dream to play in the Bangor Auditorium in front of the many Maine fans and win championships. Luckily my dreams came true, and I was able to take part in not only playing in the Bangor Auditorium but also winning multiple state championships. To me, that is real Maine!
What is my idea of the real Maine? A place where people let their neighbors be themselves — and accept them as they are.
Former Speaker of the Maine House, North Haven
To me the real Maine is small towns and town meetings, people with wonderful wit and occasional brutal honesty, neighbors who have potlucks for each other when their houses burn down or they can’t pay for cancer care, salty fishermen and stubborn farmers with kind hearts, cold winters and wood stoves, backyard gardens, creativity, incredible beauty, and a fierce love for your community and state.
Publisher, MaineToday Media, Portland
The real Maine to me is a camp on a lake, anywhere, of any vintage, but the older the better; a place where you can begin your day in front of a fire and end one in front of a fire any month of the year, hearing the plaintive cry of loons, and eating whoopie pies and cold baked beans for breakfast.
The real Maine: an expressway free of billboards, houses connected to barns, a nineteenth-century work ethic.
Former governor, wind power developer, Brunswick
The real Maine to me is community — neighbors looking out for each other in a storm, bean suppers to benefit a kid with cancer, having friends in common when you meet someone from Maine in a faraway place. It’s common sense, independence, understatement, and values. It’s one of the few places left that you can rightly say has character, both in its land and its people.
The real Maine is a rural, seafaring state of hardworking, friendly folks that seeks no publicity or fame but simply exists as a proud example of the real America and does not have people like me living there.
The real Maine consists of the people who remember Maine before 1970. Real Mainers can be charmingly crooked. Real Mainers have close relationships with Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Quebec, and the rest of the country doesn’t. There are pockets of the real Maine . . . more specifically, in my area, real Mainers can be found in Dunbar’s Store in Sullivan, at Jack’s Barber Shop in Ellsworth, at Pepper’s Pub in Ellsworth, in Riverside Cemetery in Hancock. And the real Maine is in Ruth Moore’s wonderful books, Leo Connellan’s angry and beautiful poetry, in Pat Ranzoni’s poetry, and in Marsden Hartley’s paintings.
The real Maine is Martha Stewart standing in line at Red’s Eats, fourth generation lobsterwomen you’re well advised not to mess with, and folks less interested in your religion, politics, and sexual orientation than whether you have jumper cables and are willing to stop. Real Mainers are independent as a hog on ice, do not suffer fools gladly, and yet we’re disarmingly open to new ideas as long as they don’t involve you thinking that being from away makes you better than the locals.
Executive director, Maine Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association, Unity
Forests, fields, lakes, the Atlantic — wherever we are is where the real Maine can be found, just outside our doors. I find it sitting at the table under the sugar maple on a summer evening, eating a meal from the garden.
Editor, The Maine Sportsman, author, TV personality, Augusta
Travel where in the world you wish, Maine’s the place where your heart beats slower and your mind rests easier as soon as you cross back over the Kittery Bridge.
Novelist, East Boothbay
I don’t really think in terms of “real” places, versus . . . I don’t know what. To me, the real Maine is a misleading and subversively nostalgic idea that causes people — Mainers and foreigners alike — to become too quickly dissatisfied with what they’re seeing right in front of them; causes people to exclude and devalue their own and others’ perfectly legitimate experience in favor of some unprovable (and fatuous) notion of
“authenticity.” In other words, it stifles curiosity, thwarts the imagination. Enough, already.
Domestic diva, Seal Harbor
For me, the real Maine is Mount Desert Island. There are people’s families who have been there for hundreds of years as well as summer folk who come to enjoy the scenery and the activities.
Olympic snowboarder, Carrabasset Valley
My idea of the real Maine is getting breakfast at Becky’s Diner in Portland. Usually if I am down there in the a.m. it means I’ve been out surfing and have a big smile on my face and a serious need for calories after a few early hours out in our cold waters. It’s to die for and gets me warmed up after mornings in the surf.