NORWAY — Snowshoes and fiddle music will take center stage on Feb. 11 as the town celebrates native son Mellie Dunham during the second annual Mellie Dunham Shoe and String Festival.
Last year people from across the area joined together for a day of snowshoe fun and music. This year, the event has been expanded with more musical venues.
“This year we have amazing music,” said Lee Dassler of the Western Foothills Land Trust. The Trust, along with Norway Downtown and the Norway Business Association, are sponsoring the event that will take place all day and evening in Norway.
Dassler said the music will include the Gin Mill Juleps, who she described as a “wonderful funky group” that will perform songs such as the Norway Schottische (an old-style dance) that was written by Mellie Dunham and the Swampdonkeys, three local fathers who just happen to hold doctoral degrees and who have a strong following. The headliners are Perpetual e Motion, a pair from Waterford that now perform across the country. “They are amazing,” she said.
The celebration is expected to draw people to the community from across the state.
Dunham, who was born in 1851 and died in 1931, was a master snowshoe maker with a workshop on Crockett Ridge Road. He also outfitted Admiral Robert Peary’s expedition to the North Pole in 1908-1909. He was also a nationally-known fiddler who was selected by Henry Ford to promote traditional fiddle and dance music across the county in the 1920s, Dassler said.
The Feb. 11 festival is being preceded by a number of events and displays to highlight the town’s snowshoe-making industry and the remarkable man who made some of them. Exhibits have been set up in a number of Main Street storefronts and elsewhere, including the Norway Memorial Library with a Mellie Dunham exhibit provided by the Norway Historical Society.
Paul Cote of Pa’s Antique Attic, 1192 Main St., Oxford, will have his collection of Norway-built snowshoes as well as Paris Manufacturing Co.’s sleds and children’s wagons open to the public daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., beginning this week through Feb. 7. He has also set up an exhibit of Norway-made snowshoes from all five manufacturers in the store windows by Duncan Slade’s art studio, next to Cafe Nomad on Main Street.
Dassler said snowshoes made in Norway and other seasonal touches will be featured in shop windows all along Main Street. The Norway Business Association has invited Main Street store owners to use their creativity to add to the celebration.
According to Dassler, other displays and events in the next week or two between Feb. 3 and the 15 will include a community exhibit titled Snow Shoe Stories at the Fair Share Gallery. Anyone with wooden snowshoes, stories about snowshoeing or snowshoe making is welcome to contribute to the exhibit. Dassler said interested participants may contact her at 207-739-2124 for more information.
On Friday, Feb. 3, the “Snow Shoe Stories” gallery will be open from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Fare Share Gallery on Main Street. There will be Mellie Dunham fiddle tunes and stories by local Dunham expert, David Sanderson.
On Feb. 9, Dassler will present a talk on Norway’s snowshoe industries, called “Both Poles and a World in Between,” beginning at 7 p.m.
And for those looking for a special Valentine’s Day present, chocolate snowshoes, made by Maine Gourmet Chocolates in Auburn, and snowshoe valentines with Mellie Dunham lyrics will be available at the festival and at Books n Things and at the Village Gift Barn during the first half of February.
Mellie Dunham Shoe & String Festival Schedule
NORWAY — The Mellie Dunham Shoe and String Festival schedule of events for Feb. 11 is:
Free, family morning snowshoe games at the Roberts Farm Preserve, 164 Roberts Road.
10 a.m.: Wood snowshoe showoff and 1 K race.
10:30 a.m.: Three-legged race
10:45 a.m.: 100-yard dash
11:00 a.m.: Musical chairs
11:15 a.m.: Recycled snowshoe demos; school groups encouraged to enter.
11:30 a.m.: World’s Only Snowshoe Wife Carry
A public dinner will be held from noon to 1 p.m at the Norway Grange, Whitman Street, featuring corn chowder and chili, corn bread and biscuits, gingerbread and coffee by the Heywood Club. The price is $7 per person. Proceeds benefit the club.
Afternoon dances will be held upstairs at the Grange from 1 to 6 p.m. with a requested $5 donation. The following schedule will be followed:
1-3 p.m.: Dance waltzes, foxtrots, schottisches, polkas and more with Maine’s Gin Mill Juleps (http://www.reverbnation.com/ginmilljulep). Couples dances but you don’t need to be a couple to attend; perfect for ballroom dancers.
3-6 p.m.: Contra dance with Perpetual e-Motion featuring Waterford’s own Ed Howe and partner John Cote. The pair are famous throughout Maine and beyond for their amazing sound. (http://perpetuale-motion.com/bio.html)
7-11 p.m.: Evening music featuring the Swampdonkeys can be heard at Tucker’s Pub 290 Main St. A $5 donation appreciated.