Snowshoes and fiddles headline Norway festival

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NORWAY — The third annual Norway Shoe and String Festival, which honors Norway’s rich history as “The Snowshoe Town of America” and fiddler Mellie Dunham, will be held Feb. 7-9.

It will feature lectures, exhibits, games and dance, and will include the nationally renowned duo Perpetual e-Motion.

The name Shoe and String Festival recognizes Norway’s celebrated native son Mellie Dunham who was famous for snowshoes and fiddling. He made the snowshoes that carried Adm. Robert Peary’s expedition to the North Pole. Dunham also was commissioned by Henry Ford to play traditional fiddle music across the land.

The festival will kick off Feb. 7 at the Norway Historical Society with a presentation about Dunham and the history of the snowshoe industry in Norway, Maine. The program will begin at 7 p.m. and will showcase the new Mellie Dunham exhibit on the Maine Memory Network. The online archive, a project of the Maine Historical Society in Portland, features images of Maine’s historical treasures.

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The Mellie Dunham exhibit has been prepared by the Norway Historical Society and will be introduced Feb. 7 by Candace Kanes, curator of the Maine Memory Network.

On Friday, Feb. 8, two exhibits will open downtown featuring a storefront showing of historic Norway-made snowshoes at the former Red Beard Antiques windows. The exhibit is being put together by Paul Cote of PA’s Antiques and John Belanger. It will feature snowshoes made by HH Hosmer, Mellie Dunham, Nat Noble, Tubbs and Snocraft, all snowshoe manufacturers in town.

Across the street at the Fare Share Gallery, an exhibit called ‘Snowshoe Stories’ will honor local stories, photographs and locally made snowshoes. The exhibit will open at 6 p.m. with a reception at 7 p.m. Lee Dassler will give a presentation on the history of the Norway snowshoe industries called “ To Both Poles and a World in Between.” All lectures and exhibits are free of charge.

Saturday morning, Feb. 9, will feature snowshoe games and races from 10 a.m. to noon at the Roberts Farm Preserve, 64 Roberts Road, Norway. The games are free, for all ages and will include a three-legged race, musical chairs, a 100-yard dash,  a1-kilometer trail run, an egg and spoon race and the world’s only snowshoe wife carry.

All games will be played on snowshoes. Those owned by the Oxford Hills School District will be available on loan. Traditional prizes will be awarded for those attending in historic woolen outfits and wearing wooden snowshoes.

To honor the musical side of Mellie Dunham’s life and fame, a contradance will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 9, at the Norway Grange. Bill Olson and Pam Weeks on fiddle (with Olson calling the steps) will offer an introduction to contradancing.

From 7 to 9 p.m. serious contradancing will continue with Perpetual e-Motion. A donation of $5 will cover both contradance sessions.

Norway Downtown will host a lasagna supper from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Grange. The chefs at Ari’s are providing the fare this year to include a green salad, garlic bread and beverage as well as vegetarian and meat lasagnas. The supper will cost $7.

Recognized in 2012 by the Maine Downtown Center as a uniquely Maine festival, the festival is supported by the Maine Arts Commission and the Maine Historical Society. The annual festival is a collaboration among Norway Downtown, the Norway Historical Society and the Western Foothills Land Trust.

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