NORWAY — The fourth annual Mellie Dunham Shoe and String Festival gets underway Friday, Feb. 7, with an exhibit and presentation about snowshoe-making in Norway.
Alanson Mellen “Mellie” Dunham, 72, a diminutive farmer who lived on the eastern shores of Lake Pennesseewassee in Norway, rose to national fame in the early 1900s. He made snowshoes that took Adm. Robert Peary to the North Pole and played fiddle music that Henry Ford said brought simplicity and serenity back to the American culture.
Lee Dassler of the Western Foothills Land Trust said the festival, which continues Feb. 14-16, will feature everything from a snowshoe husband/wife carrying contest, to a presentation about Norway’s snowshoe industry, a 5K and a 10K snowshoe race and a contradance with the Don Roy Trio.
“You don’t have to go on a treadmill to get exercise. You can also do something fun, like dancing,” Dassler said Monday.
The contradance, with a caller, is from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 14, at the Norway Grange on Whitman Street in Norway. It is sponsored by 5210 Let’s Go, which promotes fun activities for exercise.
The festival also includes presentations, photographs, games and other activities on the weekend of Feb. 16.
Norway, once called “the snowshoe capital of the world,” was home to four major snowshoe businesses between 1850 and 1980. The festival was recognized in 2012 by the Maine Downtown Center as a uniquely Maine festival.
The festival is supported by Norway Downtown, Center for an Ecology-Based Economy, Healthy Oxford Hills, Western Foothills Land Trust and Tracey Morin’s sixth-grade class at the Paris Elementary School.
The Shoe and String Festival is also part of the Great Maine Outdoor Weekend, which promotes outdoor activities Feb 14-16. For more information, go to www.greatmaineoutdoorweekend.org.
5 to 8 p.m.: Snowshoe Stories. An exhibit of locally made and owned snowshoes interwoven with images from the snowshoe industries, 447 Main St. Includes a presentation about local craftsmen and industries: Mellie Dunham, Nat Noble, H.H. Hosmer, W.F. Tubbs, and Snowcraft.
10 a.m.: Guided snowshoe walk beginning at 10 a.m. at Shepard’s Farm Family Preserve on Crockett Ridge Road, Norway.
7 to 9 p.m.: Contradance with the Don Roy Trio at the Norway Grange Hall on Whitman Street. Families and donations welcome.
10 a.m. to noon: Snowshoe games and races at Roberts Farm Preserve, 64 Roberts Road. Students from Tracy Morin’s sixth-grade class accompanied by Lyndsey Smith, lakeside classroom coordinator at the University of Maine 4-H Camp & Learning Center, will facilitate snowshoe games. This is part of the students’ service learning project to get students involved in the community.
The games are free and for all ages. They 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/wife carry. Snowshoes are available for loan on site. Prizes will be awarded for all events and for those attending in historic woolen outfits wearing wooden snowshoes.
2 p.m.: 5k and 10k Norway Exile snowshoe race for serious snowshoers and cross training runners. Named after John Roberts’ prize Jersey bull, this race is an opportunity to run on the groomed Nordic trails. $5 fee.
7 p.m.: Full moon family snowshoe walk at Shepard’s Farm Family Preserve, Crockett Ridge Road. Call ahead for snowshoes, 739-2124.
9 a.m.: Gram Dunham’s Air-Rifle Biathlon. Children 1k, 3 x 1k, or 3 x 2k. Western Foothills Land Trust and the Southern Maine Biathlon Club provide air rifles. Target practice is 9 to 10:45 a.m., race at 11 a.m. $5 fee. Roberts Farm Preserve. Register at www.runreg.com .