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Friday, September 28, 2012

Fright at the Fort is a True Halloween Thriller



© Copyright Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved
Fort Knox in Prospect from the Bucksport, Maine

Not many people in America enjoy such a grand fortification as a community focal point as the residents of Bucksport, Maine. Their view of Fort Knox in Prospect is a scene to behold. The fort, named after Major General Henry Knox, America's first Secretary of War, was established in 1844 in preparation of a British battle on the Penobscot River, which never materialized. It now stands proudly as Maine’s most visited historic sight. 

Courtesy of Friends of Fort Knox
Three Witches - Photo by Kate England
 Courtesy of Friends of Fort Knox 
As serene as it looks most of the year, during October, Fort Knox becomes perhaps the largest spook house in the state of Maine, maybe even on the entire East Coast. Who knows? What I do know is, it’s a somewhat spooky, giant window into the past. You can look beyond its granite and brick construction and into the very spirits of those who once lived in its dark and chilly confines. Many visitors have claimed to have seen and heard remnants of another era who are still clinging to the fortification to this very day in their afterlives. Don’t just take my word for it, do an Internet search. You’ll discover plenty of reports of pretty believable evidence from paranormal experts of ghostly footsteps and spectral apparitions of the soldiers who were once encamped there.

Courtesy of Friends of Fort Knox
Photo Courtesy of Friends of Fort Knox 
If you’ve never done so, imagine visiting Fort Knox for a planned haunted event. I’m sure hair will rise up on the back of many necks there this year, as it executes its 13th annual Fright at the Fort event. Friends of Fort Knox, the non-profit, historic preservation organization that oversees and plans fort activities, reported 9,200 people attended their 2011 Fright at the Fort and, since they’ve doubled their efforts, expect an even larger crowd this season. When you add to those previously mentioned spirits, still clinging to the fortification in their afterlives, some concocted—yet thoroughly convincing—demons, ghouls, zombies and witches, you can’t help but have a frightfully perfect Halloween thriller. Exactly what Friends of Fort Knox strives for!

Courtesy of Friends of Fort Knox
Waldo - Photo by Jamie Pellerin
Courtesy of Friends of Fort Knox 
The four opportunities to experience Fright at the Fort this year are on October 19, 20, 26 and 27, from 5:30 to 9:00 p.m.  Plan to arrive before 8:30 p.m. to allow enough time to be properly frightened.

Other upcoming October 2012 events at Fort Knox are ghost tours scheduled on October 6 and 13, and a special Belfast Maskers theatrical production—a positively terrifying retelling of Robert Lewis Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde—dramatically staged on the fort’s parade grounds October 12 and 13.
©Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All RightsReserved
Ghost hunting can be fun at Fort Knox any time of year.


Photo Courtesy of Friends of Fort Knox
Click picture to view larger poster.

For more information about Fort Knox in Prospect, Maine, visit www.fortknox.maineguide.com and for advance event tickets, call 207-469-6553.



















© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart  All Rights Reserved


Gail J. VanWart is a regular contributor to theSCENE,
a publication of Courier Publications LLC in Rockland, Maine





Monday, September 24, 2012

Acadia National Park; It's a Nice Ride


© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2012 All Rights Reserved
Blae enjoys the view along the Park Loop

Yes, Acadia National Park is a nice ride. Of the 58 National Parks in the United States, Maine is home to a real beauty, Acadia National Park. It’s not only the first U.S. National Park east of the Mississippi River, many of its 120 miles of historic hiking trails where originally established as long ago as the late 1800s.  Plus, the park’s carriage road system and stone-faced bridges make park exploration pleasantly accessible while blending nicely with the natural environment. 
© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2012 All Rights Reserved

© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2012 All Rights Reserved

© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2012 All Rights Reserved

© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2012 All Rights Reserved
Do you see the deer? 
© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2012 All Rights Reserved



From the Atlantic Ocean’s edge to Cadillac Mountain’s 1,530 foot summit, foliage at Acadia National Park is just starting to take on shades of yellow and red from autumn’s color pallet; early hints of the colorful scene to come. When wild Asters start to bloom and red Rose Hips replace Rose buds, the weather this time of year in Maine is perfect for taking a dog for a ride. So, Blae jumped into the back seat of the car and we headed for Acadia National Park where we enjoyed a relaxing journey on the Park Loop and up Cadillac Mountain, making plenty of stops along the way. Then we traveled over to Schoodic Point for a different perspective.

© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2012 All Rights Reserved
Schoodic Point

© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2012 All Rights Reserved
Blae, September  2012

Learn More...


Ken Burns called our National Parks, “America’s Best Idea” in his 2009 six-part documentary for PBS, Blae and I think he was right. Certainly, Acadia National Park is a place where you can truly discover history and explore the nature of our American heritage. If you are interested in supporting America’s best idea, you can do that, too. Visit America's Best Idea Today.

Did you knowU.S. citizens over the age of 62, can claim a lifetime pass to all 58 National Parks for a one time fee of $10. FMI :



By Gail J. VanWart © Copyright, 2012 All Rights Reserved
© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2012 All Rights Reserved
Blae






Gail J. VanWart is a regular contributor to theSCENE
a publication of Courier Publications LLC in Rockland, Maine


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Maine’s Fourth Annual Lighthouse Day


©Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2011, All rights Reserved

Sometimes referred to as North America’s castles, our lighthouses in the United States have, over the years, provided us with more than signals warning of impending danger along our coastlines. Each lighthouse serves as a little beacon of history and projects insights from the experiences of past “keepers” and their families we can learn from today. Much of our coastal history could have long been forgotten if it had not been recorded in a lighthouse keeper’s log.

© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2011 All Rights ReservedIn Maine alone, more than sixty unique beacons of history dot the rocky Atlantic coastline, both on and off shore. Wherever you happen to be along the Maine coast, there will be a lighthouse somewhere nearby. If you want to take a closer look at one, inside and out, mark September 15th on your calendar. More than 15,000 people visited Maine’s twenty-four open light stations during their 2011 open lighthouse event, which proved to be the largest effort of its kind in the nation with 4,100 people climbing up into the towers to experience first hand a lighthouse keeper’s view. I’m very happy to say, in spite of my fear of heights,  I was one of them.

© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2011 All Rights ReservedMy light of choice last year was Owl's Head, land based and southeast of Rockland (and pictured in this post). I’ve always enjoyed the pleasant walk in to the light and I adore the legends surrounding this station, especially tales of “Spot the Lighthouse Dog” whose final resting place is on the lighthouse grounds near the fog bell which brought him fame. And, I can’t help but love its legendary, and probably, downright, fibs. They, too, are charming in their own way and may contain a speck or two of truth. The biggest of such "fibs" I’ve heard is the tale of lighthouse keeper William Masters and his heroic rescue of Richard Ingraham and Lydia Dyerin in December of 1850. Both Ingraham and Dyerin were reportedly frozen alive into blocks of ice on the deck of their vessel during in a winter storm. Masters supposedly took them ashore and thawed them back to life in his kitchen. (If you believe that, I have a lighthouse for sale in Baxter State Park you can make an offer on.)
© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2011 All Rights Reserved© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2011 All Rights ReservedThe Owl’s Head light tower, itself, is an easy climb as it is only 30 feet tall. However, it stands on top of a rock formation nearly 70 feet in height that provides a 100-foot focal plane for the tower’s Fresnel lens. You’ll find interesting historic facts and trivia on display in a kiosk, thanks to former lighthouse keeper, David Bennett, who generously constructed it for the entrance to the grounds. You’ll also be pleased with the beautiful picnic area and ample parking.

Many other Maine mid-coast light stations will be participating in the Open Lighthouse event and I myself, plan to take in several for a full day of lighthouse activity.

© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2011 All Rights Reserved


For more detailed information, maps, and tour guides for Maine’s Lighthouses and Open Lighthouse Day visit these links:


The U.S. Coast Guard, the State of Maine and the American Lighthouse Foundation will present the fourth annual Maine Open Lighthouse Day, September 15, 2012, rain or shine. Most of the lighthouses participating will be open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.



© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2011 All Rights Reserved
Blae hopes you'll pay your respects to Spot
while visiting Owl's Head Light.

© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2011 All Rights Reserved
One story on display in the kiosk is how
Owl's Head got its name. 

Gail J. VanWart is a regular contributor to 
theSCENE, a publication of Courier Publications LLC in Rockland, Maine  https://www.facebook.com/theSCENE1

© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Grays of Hancock County, Maine Carry On


© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2012
Joker's Wild had toes tapping at the
2012 Reunion of the Grays of Hancock County, Maine. 
For years the third Saturday of August has been set aside as a day for the Grays of Hancock County to gather and celebrate their heritage. This year’s reunion was an event reminiscent of the old fashion reunions decades ago, complete with live music, dancing, and just plain old toe-tapping family fun. If you’re a descendent of Joshua Gray and didn’t join the clan this past August 18th reunion, you missed something special. You might even consider marking your calendar now for next year’s event.
© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2012
Food, Fun, Family (2012)


It was George Gray (the one born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1625 and died in Berwick, Maine in1693) who rather unwillingly started the historic trail of tree roots from which 99.99% of all the Gray descendents of Hancock County, Maine have grown their families from. George, descended from Alison Gifert and James Gray, who reportedly was born on the 9th day of February 1606 in Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland (the son of Barbara Sanderson and John Gray). George was also one of 150 Scots who were—as the few last remaining prisoners of war from the Battle of Dunbar—shipped to America on the Unity in 1651 as “Scots for sale” or indentured servants to provide cheap labor for industries being established in the New World.

© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2012
Generations join together. (2012)
© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2012Luckily—though five to eight years of being indentured seems like a harsh and unlucky stint in life—it was not a lifelong sentence. Seventeenth century records show how these unintentional immigrants became Maine and New Hampshire’s first landowners by taking advantage of land grants upon their freedom. It was these very same early Scottish settlers in the region who were instrumental in making petition to divide Maine from Massachusetts. In 1670, George was granted, on the 24th day of June, a 6o acre parcel of land (per York Deeds, III Preface) in the upper division of the town of Kittery, previously known as Unity and later known as Berwick.

A fellow Scotsman, Alexander “Sander” Cooper was also granted an equal parcel on the 13th of April, 1671. The two Scotsman who had shared hard labor at the Great Works Sawmill in Unity (now Kittery) and other circumstances for years, would come to forevermore share in the Gray’s American history when  “Sanders” sixteen-year-old daughter, Sarah Cooper, become the spit-fire bride of, the then forty-seven-year-old, George Gray.  But, he was certainly aware of her temperament when he married her; court records show he’d paid her fine for public profanity and the striking of another woman.
© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2012
Gray cousins reunite. (2012)

Perhaps it was a good thing Sarah had a lot of fight in her, as being a settler was not an easy occupation. She and George had five children. One, also named George, was captured and  marched off to Canada by Indians during a raid and they never saw him again. It was another of their sons, Robert, and his wife Elizabeth Freethy, who became the parents of Joshua Gray who married Jennat Elliot. Joshua is credited with being responsible for planting the Gray family roots so deeply in Hancock County, Maine. (And that is another story.)

© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2012
2012, Orland, Maine
Each person has their own unique and interesting story in life, the more research I do, the more amazed I am at the lives of my ancestors. Whenever I run into history in Maine with the Gray name attached to it, more often than not, I can trace it to Joshua Gray. Grays have experienced some of the hardest times in our local, national and world histories. Some have lost their lives in doing so. Others are unsung heroes without public  recognition, yet others were, and still are, well noted for their leadership. That said, I can’t help but wonder if it might just be the little bit of Sarah Cooper’s DNA which gave the Joshua Gray bloodline the spark of determination and straightforwardness needed to persevere all these years.

By the way, in George Gray’s last will and testament he referred to Sarah as “my loving wife.” It appears she must have turned out to be well worth the price of the fine.


—Gail J. VanWart
Another Hancock County Descendent of Joshua Gray


More history of the Gray family of Hancock County can be found in "The Descendents of Joshua Gray" compiled by the Gray Reunion Committee and printed in 2005 by Downeast Graphics & Printing, Inc., Ellsworth, Maine and, of course, on www.Ancestry.com. You can also find current information on their Gray Family of Hancock County, Maine group page on Facebook.



© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Bucksport, a Favorite Haunt


© Copyright 2011 Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved
Col. Jonathan Buck (1716-1795)
Founder of Bucksport, Maine, 1762 
Bucksport has always been one of my favorites among little Maine haunts. I have fond memories of it as a young girl during visits at my cousin’s house on the Duck Cove Road. After breakfast and chores, she and I would head off on foot and briskly walk the couple of miles into town.

At the edge of town we’d walk even brisker past the cemetery where the legendary Jonathan Buck Memorial stands with its leg and foot shaped defect that’s spawned a wealth of spooky folktales that mingle with and shroud the history of Bucksport’s founding father. We’d spend a good part of the day hiking over the bridge to Verona Island then crossing the Waldo-Hancock Bridge (which now stands vacant of travelers in the shadow of the new Penobscot Narrows Bridge) to end up at Fort Knox in Prospect. Lunch would follow our hike back to Main Street at Pop Hill’s, an absolutely “Happy Days” establishment serving burgers, shakes, and a jukebox full of the latest song hits to please its crowd of Marlboro and Lucky Strike packing teenagers who gathered there religiously. You would either leave Pop Hill’s with a class ring or a broken heart, it was guaranteed! A jaunt to the 5¢ & 10¢ store would complete our day’s plans then we’d meet up my uncle at the paper mill parking lot for a ride home when he finished his daily shift. I know I’ve dated myself with this little recollection, but the ‘50s and ‘60s were very cool in Bucksport.

© Copyright Gail J. VanWart All Rights ReservedToday Bucksport is as charming, if not more so, than it was back then. The community has relished its history and natural beauty the Penobscot River has provided it with. The Alamo Theatre, home to Northeast Historic Film, is a great example of this. Local residents have never forgotten their Alamo, built way back in 1916 when some folks actually arrived by boat to attend a show. In 1992, the Alamo was thankfully rescued from a state of deterioration and is now, not only, one of the oldest community cinemas currently in operation, it provides important archive and preservation headquarters for many of the historic films in the country.

Another example of community respect is the town’s historic Jed Prouty Inn and Tavern, which is now being remodeled as senior housing–saving the structure from disaster. The three-story building originally constructed in 1783 by a prominent Bucksport merchant was converted to an inn circa 1820. It has, according to history, played gracious host to four presidents and was made famous as the inspiration for a Broadway play.

© Copyright 2011 Gail J. VanWart All Rights ReservedPop Hill’s may no longer be there, but there are still quaint little shops and businesses which have withstood the test of time along Bucksport’s Main Street, such as the Dairy Port—its been serving ice cream for over fifty years!
© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart


Tucked in between other businesses along Main Street, is BookStacks, one of my most favorite bookstores in the entire state of Maine. It stocks over 5,000 book titles and 1,500 periodicals—plus provides free Wi-Fi, fantastic coffee and tea, a used book section, cards, gifts, and more. The “more” includes several groups of readers and writers who meet there regularly, and book signing events by local Maine authors. In fact, I, myself, will be there Thursday, August 16, 2012, 6-7pm, signing my collection of poetry, thoughts, and recipes, Life Raked In. Another Maine author, Jane Meade, will also be there signing her book, Glimpses.
Be respectful!
© Copyright 2011Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved
Don't forget the ice cream!













There’s been a lot of effort put into the Bucksport waterfront and it has an absolutely beautiful walking trail, information center, historical society, as well as a public boat launch. Where else can you view Fort Knox and the majestic Penobscot Narrows Bridge so well? Blae loves it! He wants me to remind you to be sure to keep it clean and also not to forget the ice cream.

© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2012 All Rights Reserved

Bucksport Waterfront view of Fort Knox and Penobscot Narrows Bridge.
I suggest, if you are traveling through Maine on Route 1 from the Belfast area to Bar Harbor, take a few hours, or days, to explore Bucksport, Maine. It’s worth the detour.

Learn more about Bucksport: 







Bale and I are regular contributors to the theSCENECheck it out!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Local Food Memories of Maine



Special Guest Post by Natalie Bolton

Get Real, Get Maine
Maine supports its local fare.
Natalie Bolton is a Boulder, Colorado based marketing and design professional, as well as my friend and a former colleague. When we worked together in Bangor, she is the one who always arrived at the holiday parties with a basket full of homemade preserves and other goodies made from the yields of  local Maine harvests. I'm delighted to be able to share her memories of Maine and its foods in her guest post for Nosing Around Maine.



Many of my best memories of Maine involve food – local, fresh food. Until I moved to Maine, I'd never eaten fiddleheads, whoopie pies, or freshly boiled lobster.

© Copyright 2008 Gail J. VanWart, All Rights Reserved
One of the things I loved most about summer in Maine was driving down nearby roads on a sunny day and seeing small stands at the end of long driveways with extra garden produce for sale – zucchini, tomatoes, squash and more. I loved the fact that payment was always on the honor system, and while I never heard of anyone taking advantage of it, the general attitude I heard was, “If someone just takes it, they probably need it more than we do.”

After graduate school, I started getting more involved in picking, cooking and eating  local foods. Picking strawberries and raspberries in Corinth in the summer became an annual tradition, followed by days of making jam. Later, we bought flats of blueberries to freeze (and make more jam!), and September was a time for homemade relish, made from a combination of purchased and our own garden vegetables including peppers and cabbage. What didn't get eaten became Christmas presents for friends and family around the country.

Now I'm living back in my home state of Colorado and am glad to be continuing the tradition of preparing homemade foods to share with family and friends. I'm also glad to be in an area that, like Maine, values local food – a place where I can take advantage of  great farmer's markets and CSA memberships.

When I walk through the aisles of supermarkets today, I'm horrified at the vast array of new products that get packaged and categorized as “food” – things with additives I can't begin to recognize and which friends and I lump together in a general category we call “Sodium Cancerate.” Because of this, I'm excited to see people from Maine supporting the Slow Food and Local Food Movements to keep their heritage of locally-grown foods alive for generations to come.  

Natalie Bolton
1-800-833-0456
Follow the Wise Penny Blog for marketing and design tips.


Maine Food Links of Interest:

http://www.wildblueberries.com

http://www.lobsterfrommaine.com/

http://www.mainepotatoes.com/




Nosing Around Maine © Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved



Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Maine's Wild Blueberries; a Celebrated Heritage

Photo © Copyright Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved
Fresh Organic Wild Blueberries at Peaked Mountain Farm

Anyone, who knows me personally, knows I grew up in the middle of a Wild Blueberry field in Maine and wear the badge of being the fourth generation to oversee the family farm, plus, its Wild Blueberries nature endowed it with. Though my farm is very small compared to larger names in Maine’s Wild Blueberry industry—such as Merrill, Wyman, and Cherryfield Foods—it really pleases me to be one of the few people in the entire United States, perhaps the entire world, who can actually claim to be a producer of a Wild Blueberry crop. The state of Maine is also quite proud of its unique Wild Blueberry crop as it can rightly boast, overall, to be the largest producer of blueberries.


Just so there's no confusion, Maine’s Wild Blueberries are just that, wild plants native to Maine’s soils, containing twice as many antioxidants as larger cultivated blueberries grown elsewhere. Nature also gave these small Wild Blueberries a special flavor causing people to flock to Maine each summer in search of them. While Maine celebrates its agricultural heritage with fairs and festivals throughout the summer months, it’s no wonder three are especially devoted to the Wild Blueberry.

LL Bean visits 30th Annual Blueberry Festival in Wilton, Maine August 3-4, 201230th Anual Blueberry Festival, Wilton, Maine 2012 The L.L. Bean bootmobile will be rolling into Wilton on August 3rd to kick off its 30th annual Wild Blueberry celebration. The iconic boot, touring in honor of L.L. Bean's 100th anniversary, will be standing outside the Western Maine Expo building to greet festival goers from 11 am to7 pm. As a first in a chain of festivals paying tribute to Maine’s official berry across the state, Wilton’s Blueberry Festival will take place August 3-4. If you get there early on Saturday, you can start the day off with a traditional Blueberry Pancake Breakfast. Both days are jam-packed with events, some of which you may never encounter anywhere else, such as the 6:30 pm parade of boats on Wilson Lake prior to the fireworks display.
37th Annual Machias Wild Blueberry Festival, Machias Maine 
Union FairThe annual Blueberry Festival musical will be front and center at the 37th Annual Wild Blueberry Festival in Machias, August 17-19. In the heart of Downeast, where Maine’s unique Wild Blueberries grow best, the Machias festivities include everything from an old fashion pie-eating contest to blueberry farm tours. But, five nights, August 14-18, its air will be filled with sounds of a musical written and performed by local talent in the sanctuary of Centre Street Church.

Friday, August 24, will mark the 53rd Wild Blueberry Festival Day at the Union Fair. In 1959, the Union Fair introduced the State of Maine Blueberry Festival as a special featured attraction. Nowadays, people travel from all over the world for Union Fair’s Wild Blueberry Festival Day. Each year a new Blueberry Queen is selected and fair goers enjoy Wild Blueberries as only Maine can dish them out. Wild Blueberry pie is actually free at The Wild Blueberry Hut and attendees can even score a free poster or t-shirt by visiting Wild Blueberry Corner in the Blueberry Acres pavilion.










Learn more about Wild Blueberries:
  
Learn more about organic farming: 

Check out my family farm:





Wild Blueberry Heritage 
Video provided by the 
Wild Blueberry Association of North America



You can read more about Maine events 
and attractions in an issue of 
an entertainment magazine published monthly by 
Courier Publications LLC in Rockland, Maine.

Nosing Around Maine  © Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart  All Rights Reserved