Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Maine Heritage Village

Sounds great, doesn't it? A place on Route 1 just south of Wiscasset where, according to the developer, people (viz, tourists) can learn about and enjoy the culture of Maine, a farmers’ market, a lobster pound and restaurant, an art gallery, and a pharmacy. Free exhibit space will be offered to all Maine non-profits. It will open in May.

The reality, as far as I can tell, is quite different. I had driven past the place a number of times and wondered what the heck was going on with all these baby buildings: a two-story lighthouse, a little yellow shack, what looked like a miniature church, a one-room school house, etc. Obviously, a tourist attraction, but for the height-challenged? For American Girl doll lovers? Now I know.

So far, all the advance activity seems to revolve around food: lobsters, of course, and a farmer's market, and little stalls for vendors of berries (move those roadside stands selling "BlueBerrys" into respectability!) and jams and corn, and in the corner of the sugar shack, the item I'm looking forward to most, lobster-flavored popcorn.

I guess I should allow for the possibility that this is a sincere effort to educate and inform. Will MHV eventually "focus on Maine traditions like lobstering, fishing, canoe building, agriculture and hunting," as promised the town? (The developer also hopes to have some involvement with Maine’s Native American tribes, including the Wabanaki tribe, just to complete the picture.) I hope so. For now it smells of profit-making, and it sure is ugly, I mean, quaint.

Ample parking will be available for tour buses.

1 comment:

Cyndy said...

In response to your post,and to set a few things straight....ample parking will not be available for tour buses at this site. Tour buses will park down the road at Shaw's, which will bring their store business, as well (this would be a community agreement...where one merchant helps another...bad thing? I think not) I am one of the shop owners (Dalton Heritage Arts) and it is my intention to sell ONLY items made by Maine artisans and crafters...so far I have several. The items that I make personally, are made of lobster shells (which would normally be thrown away...and the few parts that I don't use, I compost)...and my husband and I make art ,and functional items, out of recycled salvaged items (such as hanging plant baskets out of old wire coat hangers...just one simple example). Within my own store I will have information on my displays to educate about the lobster industry, as well as recycling, no matter what state you live in.We had our first association meeting last week, and from what I understood, all other vendors are of this same mindset....loyalty to education about Maine, and enhancing the local economy....and loyalty to each other to help this project to be a success. As far as the exhibitors go, the buildings have been provided for the non-profits at no cost...they, too are association members, and each association member will be educated on all of the exhibits and vendors so that we can help promote each other. It IS meant to help educate. These exhibitors do include 4 Directions, Maine Historial Society, Lincoln County Historical Society,Boothbay Railway Museum, one about the Maine Fishing Industry, and several others. They each have a plan for their own booths...the extent to which they choose to use the booth is up to each exhibitor Before you jump to judgement about what this project is about...and the motivations behind it...you might want to come by and check it out. There is a shop that will sell only Maine Made beverages (did you know that there are 18 wineries in Maine? I did not...until I spoke with this shop owner). There is a shop owner who makes beautiful handmade furniture out of old wood. He will be doing much of the handwork of these items on site, as demonstration of his craft. The Alpaca Barn will be selling wool and wool items made from Alpaca farms right here in Maine. Occasionally a live Alpaca will make an appearance for educational purposes! Yes, there is a Lobster shack restaurant with a lighthouse, and a boat painted as a sign...it calls forth attention in a very "Maine" way...which is what will help bring people in for the exhibits and the businesses. The gazebo is being dedicated to the town of Wiscasset on May 9th, and it's potential has greatly included the ideas and efforts of our local recreation department director, Todd Souza. The Gazebo will be surrounded by grass for people to bring their blankets and come and sit on as Maine performers offer shows (one of the first being our highschool band)....more strengthening of community bonds...hmmm...seems to be a theme. The Schoolhouse building is an artist gallery...one local artist who does realistic oil paintings of landscapes between Reid State Park and Pemaquid...and a watercolor artist who paints on a detailed level, Maine nature up close and in detail. It is also there studio and so their artistic process will be demonstrated, too. The sugar shack is occupied by a local woman who makes only pies, I hear there are 25 kinds over the course of the year. She will bake them on site...sell by the slice, and the Lobster Shack will sell them as well. The little blue house could be for for oompa- loompas, I'm sure they would be welcome, but its size is due to the fact that it is a child's playhouse. I invite you to come and meet me sometime after ribbon cutting on May 16th. I will be there all but about 18 hours a week (when I work my other job as a camp nurse) for 8 weeks of the summer, and a few select days where I have prior committments. I would enjoy speaking with you to find out your thoughts on what it means to build community, and form groups that help each other to make a living, especially in a time of recession. Maybe you have some ideas we can/could implement. Feel free to email back...if you have any questions, I will be glad to answer, and if I don't have them, I'm sure I can get them. I will tell you that much of my motivation behind this is to make money...as in a living....send my kids to college...all that stuff. I feel it is safe to say this about every shop owner and vendor who will be there....but last time I checked, this is how most people survive in America. I believe this project has integrity and is founded on a vision of celebrating Maine heritage, strengthening community and as well as making money. I also believe it is possible to have all 3 at once.