Mellie Dunham Shoe & String Festival begins Feb. 7

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NORWAY — The fourth annual Mellie Dunham Shoe & String Festival, with activities running from Feb. 7-16, will features lectures, exhibits, snowshoe games, races and a Valentine’s Day Dance featuring the Don Roy Trio.

Recognized in 2012 by the Maine Downtown Center as a uniquely Maine festival, the festival returns for a fourth year to celebrate  Norway’s rich cultural heritage of arts (as in music), and crafts (as in snowshoe making).

This year’s festival will take place Feb. 14-16 with support from Norway Downtown, the Center for an Ecology-Based Economy, Healthy Oxford Hills, the Western Foothills Land Trust and Tracey Morin’s sixth-grade class at Paris Elementary School.

Norway, once self-proclaimed as “The Snowshoe Town of America,” was home to four major snowshoe industries between 1850 and 1980. The Shoe & String Festival recognizes Norway’s celebrated native son Mellie Dunham, who was both a master snowshoe maker and a renowned fiddler. Mellie outfitted Admiral Peary’s expedition to the North Pole, and was commissioned by Henry Ford to play traditional fiddle music across the country.

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This year activities in the Shoe & String Festival are also part of the Great Maine Outdoor Weekend, which promotes outdoor activities across Maine from Feb. 14-16.

Snow Shoe Stories will take place from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 7. An exhibit of locally made and owned snowshoes interwoven with images from the snowshoe industries will open in the gallery at CEBE, 447 Main St. During the opening there will also be a presentation about the local craftsmen and industries: Mellie Dunham, Nat Noble, HH Hosmer, Tubbs and Snowcraft.

At 10 a.m. on Valentine’s Day morning there will be a guided snowshoe walk at Shepard’s Farm Family Preserve on Crockett Ridge Road.

From 7 to 9 p.m. on Feb. 14 there will be a Valentine’s contra-dance with the Don Roy Trio at the Norway Grange Hall on Whitman Street. There will be a caller so participants don’t need to know how to contra dance. Families are welcome. Donations welcomed.

Events on Saturday, Feb. 15

Snowshoe games and races will take place from  10 a.m. to noon at Roberts Farm Preserve, 64 Roberts Road. Students from Tracy Morin’s sixth-grade class accompanied by Lyndsey Smith, the Lakeside classroom coordinator for the University of Maine’s Bryant Pond 4-H Camp and Learning Center, will be volunteering to facilitate with the snowshoe games. This event is part of this class’s year-long service learning project focused on getting students involved in the local community.

The games are free and are for all ages and include a three-legged race, musical chairs, 100-yard dash, 1k trail run, egg and spoon race, a recycled materials snowshoe race and the world’s only snowshoe husband or wife carry. All games are enjoyed on snowshoes; and thanks to SAD17, snowshoes are now available on loan at the Preserve.

Traditional snowshoe club prizes will be awarded for all events and for those attending in historic woolen outfits wearing wooden snowshoes.

At 2 p.m. a 5k and 10k Norway Exile Snowshoe race for serious snowshoers and cross training runners will be held. Named after John Roberts’ prize Jersey bull, this race is the annual opportunity to run on the groomed Nordic trails. $5 fee.

A full moon family snowshoe will be held at 7 p.m. at Shepard’s Farm Family Preserve, Crockett Ridge Road. Call ahead if you need snowshoes: 739-2124.

At 9 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 16, Gram Dunham’s Air-Rifle Biathlon will be held at Roberts Farm Preserve. Events include a kids’ 1k, 3x1k or 3x2k. WFLT and the Southern Maine Biathlon Club will provide air rifles. Target practice will be from 9 to 10:45, with the race at 11. $5 fee. Register at runreg.com.

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