NORWAY — A presentation Thursday evening on the snowshoe industry and its local history at the Norway Memorial Library kicked off the first Mellie Dunham Snow and String Festival.

The presentation by Lee Dassler of the Western Foothills Land Trust set the stage for Saturday’s main event. The festival includes fiddlers, snowshoe races, contra dancing and much more to celebrate Norway’s contribution to the snowshoe industry and one of its most famous residents, Mellie Dunham.

Dunham was a master snowshoe maker and a nationally famous fiddler who was selected by Henry Ford to promote traditional fiddle and dance music across the county in the 1920s, Dassler said. He also outfitted Admiral Robert Peary’s expedition to the North Pole in 1908-09.

Many downtown buildings are showcasing Dunham and snowshoes with exhibits during the week. They include the Norway Memorial Library, which is displaying a Mellie Dunham exhibit that David Sanderson assembled for a 2003 event. Snowshoes made by H.H. Hosmer are on display in the windows of the L.F. Pike & Son clothing store on Main Street.

People can also see a display of old snowshoes in the Norway Savings Bank Operational Center on Main Street where Paul Cote of Pa’s Antique Attic on Route 26 in Oxford has set up a display of antique snowshoes that he has collected over many years.

The festival, which is being sponsored by the Western Foothills Land Trust, will include snowshoe events at the Roberts Farm Preserve on Roberts Road off Route 117. There will also be a public noonday “supper” of chowder, chili, corn bread and more at the Norway Grange by the cooks of the Heywood Club and an afternoon of fiddle music and contra dance with the Don Roy Trio, including Pam Weeks and Bill Olson, with David Sanderson emceeing.

People are also being asked to bring their own antique snowshoes, particularly any that were manufactured in Norway, to be photographed and recorded for the Norway Historical Society.

The following schedule of events has been released.

10 a.m.-noon, Roberts Farm Preserve

There will be free family snowshoe events in the field at Roberts Farm Preserve in Norway:

* Traditional snowshoe dress competition: Search your barns, attics and trunks for old woolens and wooden snowshoes. Points for historic authenticity.

* Musical chairs on snowshoes.

* Three-legged races.

* Winter wife carry (on snowshoes).

* A short snowshoe line walk in the woods.

Noon-1 p.m., Public Dinner, Norway Grange

Corn chowder and chili, corn bread and biscuits, gingerbread and coffee by the Heywood Club. $7 benefits the club.

1-3 p.m. Fiddle Sessions, Contra Dance

Don Roy Trio; Pam Weeks and Bill Olson; David Sanderson, emcee. $5 contribution appreciated.

Dassler said festival collaborators hope this will become an annual event in Norway and that future festivals may include fiddle workshops and competitions, and traditional snowshoe and toboggan-making workshops.

The event is funded in part by a grant from the Maine Arts Commission, an independent state agency supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Maine Humanities Council, a private nonprofit organization affiliated with the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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