POLAND – Camp Connor leaders tried to send kids outside for archery and
boating Thursday morning, but the rain drove everyone indoors, again.
As they have for much of the season, day campers spread out in the
lodge and on porches, said Chris Shea, director of the YMCA camp. They
played dominoes and other board games, drew pictures and did other arts
and crafts.
“They have done surprisingly well,” Shea said of the campers. It could
be because since summer camp started, it’s been raining. “Rain is what
they know.”
Attendance has been good. “Kids haven’t been staying home,” Shea said.
But the wet weather has taken a toll on agriculture and tourism.
“This prolonged rain is not a very good thing,” said Doug Chipman of
Chipman Farms in Poland. Chipman’s pick-your-own strawberry fields have
been open for a week. In a good weather year the season is only two
weeks. The rain is shortening the season.
“Strawberries are a soft fruit. They can’t stand up once they’ve turned
red,” Chipman said. Some customers are staying away waiting for a sunny
day. But the strawberries aren’t waiting.
With or without the sun, they’re ripening. The fields are full. Chipman
urges strawberry lovers to pick despite wet fields. “Once they’re here
people are understanding. They know they’re not dealing with perfect
conditions.”
People want strawberries for July 4. Some rain but some sun is forecast
for Saturday and Sunday. “We’ll probably be really busy this weekend,”
Chipman said. At Agway in Wilton, greenhouse business has been good.
With first lady Michele Obama promoting vegetable gardens, and people
trying to save by growing their own, sales have been high for vegetable
plants, seeds, fruit trees, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries,
greenhouse manager Adam Coffin said.
All the rain had hurt some plants, prompting some to buy more.
“A lot have bought plants two or three times,” Coffin said. “They
planted cucumbers and they plain rotted. They replanted, trying again.
. . . With no sun everything is turning yellow.”
People with raised garden beds are having more success because there is better drainage.
Slug and snail bait has also been selling well. Slugs thrive on
moisture. “They’re everywhere,” Coffin said. “I pulled 143 from my own
garden yesterday.”
Statewide, tourism is suffering because of the weather, not because of
the economy or a one-cent rise in Maine’s gasoline tax, said University
of Maine Associate Professor of Marketing Harold Daniel.
If the sun doesn’t appear, the July 4 weekend will be disappointing.
Daniel and graduate students have recently completed a survey of New
England and Canadian tourists about the impact of the economy and their
summer vacation plans. Most Maine tourists drive from Montreal and
other parts of Canada and the Boston area.
“We found the economy may not be the big problem for Maine that
everybody thought it would be,” Daniel said. Gas prices are favorable
compared to last year. Tourists that Maine attracts have more
discretionary time and money. “They’re people who may have been less
affected by the stock market crash of last year. And there are still
groups who feel confident in their jobs and investments.”
Some plan to spend less eating out and at high-end lodging, “but they are still coming, Daniel said, if the weather is good.
“Maine is so dependent on outdoor activities. The weather is really
important. The rain is bad for everybody. Clearly the weather has hurt
us. The lodging industry has had some real problems. People aren’t
coming.”
Daniel’s survey showed that technology allows people to better monitor
the weather. They’re more likely to book a room after reviewing the
forecast.
Booking at the last minute “is not good for the lodging industry,” Daniel said. “It makes it difficult to plan staffing.”
Tourists are also less likely to stay for a full week, opting for shorter stays in different locations, Daniel said.
Locally, constant rain has driven more out of their kitchens.
“My lunches have been very busy,” said Greg Hird, one of the owners of
The Falls, a new restaurant in downtown Auburn. People are eating out
because “they can’t do anything else. You can’t go to the beach. It’s
just miserable.”
The Chick-A-Dee Restaurant in Turner reported a similar experience.
It’s always busy this time a year, “but the last week has been
unusually busy,” said manager Annette Spear. “More are coming in to get
away from thinking about the rain.”
Rain has increased youngsters playing indoors at Joker’s Family Fun N Games at the Auburn Mall.
“It’s been very busy for the last couple of weeks,” said General
Manager Jamie Grattelo. One day of rain doesn’t bring in more
customers. But when it rains for days “people go stir crazy,” Grattelo
said. “The long spell of rain helps us out, especially in the summer.”
Children are enjoying the play gym and big blow-up slide. “Kids need a place to scream and run around for a little while.”
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