… on Farmington, Maine.
One Last Chance
Today, we spent our last full day in Maine. Tomorrow we cross into Canada as we turn the corner on our eastern progress and curl northwest for the return portion of Second Summer. That more northerly route home will take us to Niagara Falls in Ontario, then through my hometown of Goshen, Indiana, before whisking us back home.
Which meant that this was also our final chance to put feet on the ground to check the character of nearby cities. Today’s destination was Farmington, where for weeks we’ve been anticipating their annual (small-) town celebration of Summer Fest.
Sincere and quaint, Farmington’s Summer Fest is Americana in a weekend. Sweet but unsaccharine. Neighborly.
The town gussied up and roped off downtown to make room for activities and local vendors – food, crafts, artisanal offerings of every kind. There was music too: steel drums, then folk, then Ashram devotionals to Shiva, then modern swing.
Plus pie and picnics and races. Early in the day a float race down the Sandy River. Later a 5K finishing in the heart of downtown.
Then a bed race, silly and unpretentious and surely the highlight of these siblings’ day:
This downtown is a callback to provincial America, where one expects to see Opie Taylor whistling past the stately Victorians with a fishin’ rod on his shoulder.
It’s functional (there’s a full-service grocery on Main Street), charming (most businesses hang stylized signage, all of a vintage type), and broom-clean (even if they did tidy up for company.)
And it’s not too nationalized. Almost every establishment is one-off, and the town even celebrates its hyperlocal history with a December parade to honor the inventor of earmuffs, a hometown hero from 150 years ago.
Yet despite its nostalgic feel, Farmington offers a hefty dose of modernity and new-age quirks. Among them, upscale gluten-free options, yoga studios, and incense-rich stores touting healing crystals.
Here, old meets new. A traditional barber – pole spinning – across the street from a website designer. A second-hand bookstore next to IT network builders. And everything just a few steps from the historic University of Maine at Farmington, occupying an honored section of downtown.
And every block revealed unexpected appeal. Down these funky stairs a first-rate “Wingery.” Around the corner and across from the little league fields an old-school, window-service ice cream parlor. At the bottom of the hill, a drive-in theater.
Of course we went.
After the cotton-candy sunset, The Lion King played on the screen while Kyrie’s underappreciated bass speakers amplified every roar and thunderstroke with more rumble than any theatre ever could.
The movie was a stirring capstone to an utterly charming and surprising day. Hakuna matata, indeed.
In the gallery below, we’ve included even more pictures so you can see for yourself.
Farmington, we have a crush on you. You have enough character to not be trite. You’re earthy when you could be chichi. You’re flat out pretty.
And so affordable.
The motto on Maine’s license plates reads “Vacationland.”
Maybe true. But also maybe true: “Home.”