While big cities may catch the attention of many tourists, there is an undeniable charm when visiting small-town America.

Small towns are true gems and have long held a special place in visitors’ hearts — the air is a little fresher, the grass is a little greener and the pace is more lackadaisical than a metropolitan area.

One of Maine’s treasures is the foothills of western Maine. It pretty much has it all for those seeking a slice of Americana.

According to John Williams, executive director of the Oxford Hills Chamber of Commerce, spending time in the region is truly a way to appreciate life “as it should be.”

“Nowhere in Maine can you find more natural beauty while being surrounded by opportunities to enjoy events and activities all year long — it’s where it’s all happening, all the time!” said Williams.

There is a multitude of things to do and see throughout the year, but more so in late summer and fall with loons calling on Pennesseewassee, leaves painting the skyline and brilliant sunrises and sunsets over the endless mountains of the region.

For those wishing to stroll and shop, downtown Norway has an old-fashioned hardware store, farmers markets, handcrafted jewelry, a book store, bakery and a wine shop, not to mention a café, banks and eateries. The buildings themselves are a sight to see as most are of early-1900 architecture.

If a bit more exercise or taking in some of nature’s beauty is more to your liking, there are numerous hiking trails in the area.

Streaked Mountain in Buckfield offers a short, yet challenging, 1.2-mile round trip hike with scenic views of the Oxford Hills and White Mountains. Singepole Mountain in South Paris has 1.3 miles of trail through quarries and views over Hall’s Pond. Mt. Tire ‘Em in Waterford is a footpath suitable for families and small children with vistas of Bear Mountain, Bear Lake and Long Lake. For a more gentle walk, Cornwall Nature Preserve on Paris Hill provides 150 acres of walking trails, spaces for family outings and photography opportunities.

For fun in the sun, there is a treasure trove of rivers, streams, lakes and ponds to swim, water ski and sail. And if you enjoy a round of golf, both Norway Country Club and Paris Hill Country Club offer great golf as well as panoramic views of the area.

Like arts and entertainment?

Tucker’s Music Pub on Main Street in Norway has live music on Saturday night; if you are musically inclined, participate in the open acoustic jam night each Friday, or just drop by to listen.

Fans of the performing arts will enjoy the Oxford Hills Music and Performing Arts Association, better known as OHMPAA. Held on stage at the Norway Grange Hall on Whitman Street, this troupe will tickle your funny bone with such shows as “See How They Run” by Philip King from August 14-24. “Honk!,” based on Hans Christian Andersen’s story of the “Ugly Duckling,” will be performed from Nov. 13-23.

The Celebration Barn is a theater nestled in the woods of South Paris. Various types of entertaining performances will run each Saturday night through August. Shows include Amanda Huotari’s “The Soiree,” Happenstance’s “Pinot and Augustine,” Michael Menes in “Egadz” with a finale on Aug. 30 celebrating the best of the season’s new work.

Frost Farm Gallery, located on Pikes Hill in Norway is a custom framing and gift shop featuring Maine artwork, and vintage prints and jewelry, but so much more. Throughout the year, the gallery holds exhibits, such as Portals, New Works by May Best, which will run throughout August and Under One Roof: Photographs by Margaret Lindsey and Drew Sanborn begins Sept. 5 with a reception, meet-and-greet the artist and live music by Brad Hooper.

And what would a crisp fall day in Maine be without a county fair?

The Oxford County Fair will be held from Sept. 10-13. It will be brimming with all kinds of agricultural exhibits and demonstrations, a midway, tractor pulls, harness racing, livestock and daily entertainment. Opening day is Agricultural Day and is one of the family favorites, with one-dollar entry fees, one-dollar rides and ample demonstrations. Another favorite is Friday with Woodsmen Day, including such events as log rolling, axe throwing and the Jack and Jill crosscut.

“The Oxford Fair has something for everyone; exciting new competitions, show entertainment and much more,” said Jackie Young, Fair president. “We’ve made some changes to our ‘good old country fair’ that are turning out to be a great success, including, new affordable pricing to exciting entertainment for such shows as Charley Pride, whose opener is Jimmy Lehoux, the former County Up Contest winner. Because of the support of our wonderful community, we have created a fair, rich in entertainment that focuses on families and agriculture.”

For a sense of some of the great opportunities in sometimes breathtaking vistas in the Oxford Hills area, take a ride to the region. Smell the flowers at McLaughlin Gardens, skip stones at Snow Falls or maybe even pull a few handles at the Oxford Casino. Americana waits.

For more information and a calendar of events, visit oxfordhillsmaine.com.

Western Maine is where you want to be

By Sharon Bouchard, Feature Writer

The Oxford Hills has a slogan, “Everywhere you want to be,” because there is a bit of everything in this part of Western Maine. With Portland only 45 miles away and Lewiston-Auburn a mere 20 miles to the east and the New Hampshire border only 35 miles to the west, Oxford Hills is right in the heart of Western Maine.

With an abundance of lakes, and surrounded by scenic mountains, the area is wonderfully positioned to provide activities of all kinds for all ages and skill levels. Hikers will find peaceful easy trails such as Ordway Grove off Pleasant Street in Norway. 

Enjoy swimming, boating and fishing at just about all the lakes and ponds in the area. There are public beaches, boat launches and camping areas throughout the region. A visit to the local town office or the Oxford Hills Chamber of Commerce can point you in the right direction.

If canoeing or kayaking are to your liking, trips down the Nezinscot River in Buckfield or the Little Androscoggin River with launches in Oxford and Bethel will provide not only peace and quiet from the hustle of the downtowns, but scenic beauty as well.

The entire area is rich in gems and minerals, but West Paris is known for high levels of tourmaline and there are several mines open to the public where you can find other beautiful gems and minerals such as quartz and feldspar as well as several colors of tourmaline. And the Greenwood Ice Caves in Greenwood are home to another beauty of the inner earth. Access takes a little work, but is worth the effort.

If inner earth doesn’t appeal to you perhaps just getting dirty in the good earth does. The McLaughlin Gardens on Main Street in South Paris will host “Helping Hands Day” from 9:30 a.m. to noon Thursday, Aug. 7. Volunteers can get down and dirty with weeding, planting and mowing activities. Go to mclaughlingarden.org for more information on this and other events.

As well as the abundance of outdoor activities there are many fine restaurants, retail stores, libraries and art galleries throughout the area. Just stroll down the Main Street of any of the towns in Western Maine and you will find hidden treasures and find foods.

Visitors and natives alike can find plenty of entertainment to mellow out the busy days. Race fans can hear the roar of stock cars and watch the checkered flag drop every Wednesday and Friday nights at 7:30 p.m. at Oxford Plains Speedway on Route 26 in Oxford. For more information, visit oxfordplains.com.

For those who find music a little more soothing than the roar of big engines, historic Deertrees Theater in Harrison is home to the Sebago-Long Lake Music Festival at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 5 and 12. For more information, visit sebagomusicfestival.org.

Free concerts in Moor Park, corner of High Street and Route 26 in South Paris will take place on Wednesday, Aug. 6 and 13. The children’s events are held at 10:30 a.m. and at 6 p.m. the concerts for all ages take place. In the event of rain, the concerts are held at the South Paris Fire Station on Western Avenue.

Other entertainment and events taking place in the region include a little history with “Back to the Past” at Scribner’s Mill from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 2 and Sunday, Aug. 3.  Scribner’s Mill is the only surviving industrial sash sawmill in the country. For more information, visit scribnersmill.org.

A concert with Dave Rowe on Sunday, Aug. 10, and an antique and vintage toy exhibit on Friday, Aug. 22 and Saturday, Aug. 23, take place at the Bell Hill Meeting House in Otisfield. For more information, call 207-539-8178.

September has plenty of excitement going on too starting with Buckfield Community Day on Monday, Sept. 1. A parade starts at the high school at 10 a.m. and there will be games, food and vendors. For more information, visit townofbuckfield.com.

The Norway-Paris Kiwanis will present Murder Mystery Dinner Theater on Saturday, Sept. 6, at Granite Ridge Estate and Barn. For directions and reservations, call 207-539-4800.

Whether you live in western Maine or you are a visitor from “away” it really is “everywhere you want to be.”


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