Memorial Day weekend has come and gone, but Maine's busy summer tourist season is just beginning. Our state is well-known far and wide as "Vacationland." Soon, we will be sharing our roads and highways with out-of-state license plates, and car-loads of families searching for the perfect Maine vacation. If there is a silver lining to the cloud of higher than usual travel costs this summer, it is that AAA predicts that many families will forego long, far-away trips and will instead choose to vacation closer to home. That can be good news for a state like Maine that has so much to offer and whose economy heavily relies on the millions of dollars it attracts from visitors from nearby cities such as Boston and New York. It seems to me that this is a perfect time for all of us who live in Maine to take a second look at the abundance of activities our state offers and plan a vacation right here in our own backyard.
|Senator Susan Collins represents the State of Maine in the U.S. Senate.|
We are fortunate to live in such a beautiful state with so many opportunities within a day's drive of our homes. Maine is rich with places to explore, from its sandy beaches, to its rocky shores, to its lakes, mountains, forests, and rolling fields. When is the last time you spent a day, or an entire weekend, browsing in the downtown shops of a nearby town, visiting a local library or museum, or camping and hiking the trails around such wonderful areas as Acadia National Park or Baxter State Park?
Like so many Mainers, one of my favorite things to do in the summer is to pack my car and head to camp. I enjoy spending as much time as possible kayaking at the lake, and I especially enjoy the smell of a roaring campfire and quietly listening to the sound of a loon. For generations of Maine families, camp conjures up fond childhood memories of hours spent swimming, boating, and eating hamburgers, hot dogs, blueberry pie, and, of course, lobster.
If you are hungry for lobster, you will want to mark your calendar for August 2nd. That is when the 59th annual Maine Lobster Festival gets underway in Harbor Park in Rockland. Festival organizers have lined up some great entertainment including legendary artists such as Don McLean and Aztec Two-Step, as well as some of today's most talented artists such as country stars Andy Griggs and Julie Roberts. The biggest attraction of this festival, however, is the Maine lobster. Last year, festival-goers from around the world consumed more than 25,000 pounds of freshly cooked lobster!
There is no shortage of summer festivals in Maine. Many towns and cities hold celebrations of some sort honoring everything from blueberries to apples to potatoes. Some of biggest and best include the Maine Potato Festival in Fort Fairfield which begins July 12, the Yarmouth Clam Festival that kicks off July 21, Boothbay Harbor's 44th Annual Windjammer Days will be held June 27th and 28th, the Maine Moose Mainea Festival, a month-long celebration of "Maine's favorite four-legged resident," which recently got underway in Greenville, and the American Folk Festival on the Bangor Waterfront in late August. One of the most beautiful celebrations occurs each year in Lewiston and Auburn. The Great Falls Balloon Festival, which is New England's largest hot air balloon festival, takes place August 18 through 20, and will fill the sky with colorful hot air balloons.
There is so much to see in Maine, including some things that are not always easy to see. Maybe this is the year that you could try to spot your first moose? I would recommend taking a drive to the Moosehead Lake or Rangeley Lake areas. How about heading out on the ocean on a whale or dolphin watch, or taking a daylong cruise to Eastern Egg Rock in Muscongous Bay to see a colony of Atlantic Puffins. Be sure to bring your binoculars and a camera to capture all of these wonderful memories.
Enjoying Maine's great outdoors does not have to break the bank. You could pack a picnic lunch and drive to a nearby state park, or sit and listen to a free outdoor concert. As a member of the Senate Armed Services committee, I was delighted to able to announce that the U.S. Navy will once again honor our great state with several port visits this summer. At my request, Navy ships will visit Boothbay Harbor during this month's Windjammer Festival. In July, ships will visit Bucksport during the Downeast Gateway Festival, and Eastport during the 4th of July Festival. In August, additional ships will visit Camden during Windjammer Weekend and Rockland during the Lobster Festival. These ships are open to the public and free for all of us to enjoy.
Maine is filled with great places to go and fun things to do. If we plan ahead, we can make this the year that we spend the summer appreciating our state's natural beauty, its festivals, its wonderful shops and restaurants, its oceanfront, its quiet lakeside communities, and even the hustle and bustle of its cities. I think you might just be surprised and pleased to learn that there is so much to do just minutes from your home.