Tuesday, December 9, 2008

On Location

"Maine has a tourism problem," Jeff Clark writes, "and it's called winter."

Indeed, according to Clark's Down East article, "Welcome, Winter," a scant three-percent of the information requests fielded by the Maine Office of Tourism are travel inquiries related to winter. Which isn't encouraging when tourism happens to be this state's biggest industry.

Fortunately, though, the wintry tourism season in Maine is growing more robust (again, according to Clark, sales tax receipts from restaurant and lodging businesses in York County from October through December increased by 27.3% from 2002 to 2007) thanks in large part to events like the Kennebunks' Christmas Prelude.

Begun as a one-day affair by a local businessman in 1982, Christmas Prelude has blossomed into a multi-week affair that features a schedule of events that is as jam-packed as it is varied. My family, for example, hopped on a balsam-scented trolley for a 1.5 mile joy ride at the Seashore Trolley Museum in outer Kennebunk before driving (actually, considering both the vehicular and foot traffic present in the villages, crawling is probably a more accurate verb) into Kennebunk's Lower Village to sample the brews on tap at Federal Jack's. In the meantime, we missed out--and continue to miss out, as the festival in ongoing--on a heap of funky parades, shopping, craft fairs, lobster bakes, shopping, champagne receptions, concerts, (did I mention shopping?), walking tours, etc.

Nevertheless, we did endure the underwhelming tree lighting at the corner of Christensen Lane and Route 35 and we almost made it to the St. Anthony Franciscan Monastery for the festival's traditional Candlelight Caroling event before our nine-month-old remind us how different life really is.

I suppose it just means we'll just have to devour everything the festival has to devour next year.

- John C.L. Morgan

P.S. Though I'm aware that data is not the plural of anecdote, fewer than one-third of the approximately thirty passengers on the trolley at the Seashore Museum were Mainers, and there were a lot of out-of-state plates clogging the streets. Moreover, most of the passengers on the trolley were Massholes fine Massachusetts folk and there were a lot of Bay State plates, which is ironic considering Christmas Prelude was reportedly inspired by similar events in the Commonwealth towns of Marblehead and Nantucket.

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