Vacations are about the people

A 985-pound Johnson-powered pumpkin

Going on vacation is loads of fun, especially in the people we meet. Like the night in Maine last week when we had dinner at the Salt Bay Café in Damariscotta, Maine. Couples three were we, sitting to our first dinner on the rocky coast of the Pine Tree State. We each ordered our favorite choice of fresh-from-the sea fare.

[pullquote]… he would grow a pumpkin – his first “boat” was 754 pounds – and build the boat, but he would not get in it.[/pullquote]

I had oysters. I love the things on the half-shell, with jalapeño relish to spice ’em up a touch.

Others at the table were not so enamored of the slippery bivalves. Various snide comments issued concerning the food on which oysters, clams, and other mollusks dine at the bottom of the sea – a process one witty member of our party compared to a wastewater treatment facility.

“Too much information,” said the lady diner at the next table.

And that’s how we met Thomas and Maureen Kronenberger. Their son attended Gettysburg College, where he found the young woman who became his wife. The couple now lives in Mechanicsburg.

Thomas the elder was a graphic designer before he switched careers to restore historic buildings, including the Mark Twain house in Hartford, Conn.

We were served breakfast on Pemaquid Point by Barbie, a waitress who, when the season closed at the end of the week, headed for Daytona, Fla. to enjoy fun in the sun until time to return to Maine, where she house-sits, pet-sits, and serves breakfast to hungry vacationers. She recommended the Eggs Pemaquid, an amazing rendition of house-made Hollandaise sauce and fresh crab meat over poached eggs on an English Muffin. Yummm!

And I met Buzz Pinkham (owner of Pinkham Plantation plant nursery), Bill Clark, (an engineer at Bath Iron Works, where are built U.S. Navy fighting ships), and Tom Lishness (an instructor at the U.S. Navy Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape school in Rangeley, Maine). The trio are instigators of an amazing race held each Fall near the mouth of the Damariscotta River.

Clark and Pinkham were perusing a copy of “How to Grow Giant Pumpkins, Vol. 3” when they came up with the idea that a giant pumpkin – many weigh more than 1,000 pounds – might make a good boat. Clark told Pinkham he would grow a pumpkin – his first “boat” was 754 pounds – and build the boat, but he would not get in it. Pinkham and Lishness were less reluctant to risk being dumped into the river in mid-October. That was 2005.

Columbus Day Weekend this year, three such boats, powered by outboard motors, raced around three pumpkin-shaped buoys. True to his word, Clark remained on the pier to record the winners’ names.

In addition to the three “power boats,” four “paddle boats” were entered, including one extremely tippy round model named the S.S. Aloha by a quartet of women from Washington, D.C.

The event was part of Damariscotta’s Pumpkinfest, which also featured an hour-long parade, dozens of huge carved and painted pumpkins, and a pair of 1,000-pound pumpkins craned 180 feet above ground and then dropped. It’s surprising what a half-ton of pumpkin dropped from 180 feet will do to a Ford Explorer. Or an Oldsmobile sedan. Imagine a hammock made of steel.

And I chatted with Valerie Walsh, a volunteer at the Skidompha bookstore – spelled with the initials of a group of readers who, more than a century ago, donated their book collections to start the Skidompha Public Library.

Some places roll up the sidewalks at 9 p.m. Maine rolls them up in October.

But there always will be more places and more stories.

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