RUMFORD — Babe the Blue Ox is back!

At Thursday night’s Board of Selectmen meeting, Economic Development Committee member Jim Rinaldo revived his idea from last fall to give the Information Booth’s giant Paul Bunyan statue a companion.

But instead of placing the bright blue bovine near the statue of Bunyan that represents Rumford’s timber and lumber business heritage, Rinaldo suggested putting Babe on the northern end of the downtown island.

A Belfast company called Fiberglass Farm specializes in large fiberglass animals, he said.
Rinaldo said Babe would be an excellent economic development tool that would attract tourists into the downtown area for another themed photographic opportunity.

“There are 4,500 to 5,000 people going to the Information Booth annually,” Rinaldo said during an update about committee endeavors to date.

“But I don’t feel there’s enough interest to get tourists into the downtown,” he said. “We need an attraction to get people into town.”

“If we can get a fraction of those 5,000 people down here, they’ll spend a few bucks,” he said. “We’ve got to help the merchants, because they are really hurting.”

When asked the size he was considering, Rinaldo said Babe, the giant blue ox from a Minnesota folktale, would be 10 feet long by 5½ feet tall, and cost $7,500.

“It needs to be bigger,” Selectman Robert Cameron said. “Look at our Paul Bunyan thing. His ox was substantially bigger.”

That led to a sidetracked discussion about other possibilities to bring tourists into the downtown area.
Selectman Greg Buccina suggested putting up flags from each of the nation’s 50 states as was done in the past opposite the Information Booth.

However, when asked what would be most effective for an economic development tool, Rinaldo stuck with Babe.

“You can go to any town and see flags, but I don’t think you can go to a town and see Paul Bunyan on one side of town and his big blue ox on the other end,” he said.

Buccina then joined Cameron and said a much bigger ox is needed.

“If money was no object, I’d like to see one with a yoke and sled of logs to depict the history of logging in the area,” Cameron said.

“The uniqueness of it is the key,” said Selectman Frank DiConzo, who then asked Rinaldo to check with the Maine Army National Guard to see if Rumford can get a retired jet or helicopter to put in the Veterans Park.

Information Booth worker Ron Russell suggested painting blue ox tracks through the downtown from Bunyan to Babe for tourists to follow.

Taking Cameron and Buccina’s suggestions to heart, Rinaldo said he would get prices from the Belfast company for a much larger Babe and a sled of logs.

Selectmen then continued their economic development discussion with Buccina suggesting bringing area musicians into town for outdoor concerts or even fiddling contests.

“This brings communities together, gets exposure and it’s not that difficult to do,” he said.

Buccina also suggested focusing on the Androscoggin River by clearing the boat launch area of brush, enabling Route 2 drivers to better see the river, and installing picnic tables in the area to create a park-like atmosphere to attract people who stop at the nearby McDonald’s fast-food restaurant.
These and other ideas are likely to be discussed in the near future during a selectmen workshop with the Economic Development Committee.

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During a special presentation at Thursday night’s Rumford Board of Selectmen meeting, John Kezal , left, thanks selectmen standing beside him and Town Manager Carlo Puiia in back at right for naming Kezal Rumford Citizen of the Year 2009-10 for his tireless work on behalf of town veterans. Selectman Frank DiConzo holds the large wall plaque on which the town’s Citizen’s of the Year will be engraved. Afterward, Puiia gave Kezal a golden symbolic key to the city.

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