Plenty. And we’re searching for one that identifies our region with pride.

Dick Brooks of Phillips doesn’t favor pasting a new name on western Maine. “It is a terrible idea,” he wrote in response to a request last month for suggestions. “I hope your readers will agree with me and pan the whole idea!”

But just in case, “at the expense of shooting myself in the foot,” Mr. Brooks sent in a few suggestions.

In all, readers sent in more than 50 suggestions, some lyrical, some practical, some whimsical.

One common thread in all of them, though, was a deep, wide love of the region. People are fond of this place, whatever you want to call it.

And while there were a few others like Mr. Brooks who wished the naming idea would go away, there were many more who embraced it.

“Good luck with your search,” wrote Mary Jane Kaniuka of Farmington Falls.

“I hope that … we will finally become an area recognizable throughout the state and one that people will actually know how to locate,” stated Rene Veilleux of Auburn.

“Ben you are right,” wrote John Goodwin, also of Auburn.

Mr. Goodwin and I could become good friends.

To summarize the earlier article: The Sun Journal was looking for something other than “western Maine” to call this grand area in which we live, something that carried the pride and identification of “Down East” or “The County,” something that might distinguish us and elevate us in the eyes of the Legislature and in our own eyes. Pride and identity were two reasons we went looking for an all-inclusive name. And if tourists had an easier time finding us, that would be a good thing, too.

Here’s what I wrote: “Sometimes, to celebrate something, we need a name to proclaim. It should fit. It should sparkle a bit. It should be memorable and easy to spell. It should make us proud.”

Good names that don’t work

The names that came in, most of them, had the pride factor: “Rural Haven.” “GOD’s (Great OutDoors) Country.” “Paradise.” “The Heart of Maine.” “Majestic Maine.”

Some of them sparkled: “Molivari” (from MOuntain LAke VAlley RIver). “Gem of Maine (to note our gemstone reputation). “Sylvan Hills.”

Some mentioned specific features of our area but also excluded some: “The Lake District.” “The Highlands.” “Androscoggin Valley.”

All great names, but none points to our area specifically from all the other regions. The identity component is missing.

For us to use it and for others to use it the name would have to work in the following sentences:

A band of snowstorms swept through _________ last night.

A turnpike crash tied up __________ traffic early this morning.

Here’s a list of events happening in __________ this weekend.

Car crashes in Paradise? If you were attending events in Rural Haven, you might miss Lewiston-Auburn entirely. And would you seek out skiing in The Lake District, or ice fishing?

Good names that work

And the winner is:

Actually, that’s what I had hoped to write, but there is no winner yet. However, we have three contenders. The judges are weighing these three but are willing to entertain more if you have another suggestion.

No. 1

This is a staff suggestion: Maine West.

Yes, it sounds like “Mae West,” but it has a memorable quality and is fairly specific to the area.

No. 2

From Paul J. Gies of Dryden: Up West.

“It contrasts with ‘Down East,’ and it emphasizes our mountainous nature, and you have to admit it’s very concise!” Mr. Gies writes. Yes, we do like contrast, and we do like to be concise. It, too, seems memorable.

No. 3

From John G. Hogan of Farmington: Inland West.

The notion of “inland” was a good one to distinguish from a vast portion of Maine that is not inland, we thought. And the “west” emphasizes that even more.

All three emphasize “west,” which seemed important to the judges at the time.

Could you smile with pride and say you live Inland West? If someone asked you where to find the best downhill skiing, could you say, with conviction, Up West? If you picked up a brochure or read a newspaper story that proclaimed Maine West, would that feel like home?

Among legislators, if there were such a thing as a voting bloc named for our region, would you feel our region had more power?

Again, while we ponder, we’d like to hear from you. Please e-mail [email protected] or write to Ben Stackhouse, Sun Journal, P.O. Box 4400, Lewiston, ME 04243-4400.

There is an organization that spans an area very similar to the one we’re trying to define. Several of the chambers of commerce have banded together to form an organization they call The Western Lakes & Mountains Region of Maine. In terms of specificity for tourists, it’s a great name. In terms of capturing the imagination of Mainers and others, a name to rally around and, yes, take pride in, there’s something missing.

Help us fill in the western Maine blank, not for the tourists but for our own self-respect, dignity, unity and sense of place.


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