Tonight at 11|10c, watch as Geoff Edgers visits The Edge of Maine, where he races lobster boats, tests his lumberjack skills, and sword fights with a pirate.
I thought I knew Maine. Roadside lobster shacks. Yuppies in Kennebunk. Brew pubs in Portland. Then I found myself in Eastport. It’s a gritty town around 6 hours up the coast from Boston. It’s actually the easternmost city in the United States, a fact that’s both trumpeted regularly and less interesting to me than the actual feel of the place. There was a time when Eastport was thriving, driven by the sardine factories. That time is gone.
So what do you do when your industry leaves, there’s no major league sports teams to pump in revenue and the closest you’ll get to a big concert is a pair of singer-songwriters wheeling their amplifiers into a coffee house? You make your own fun. And that’s what I loved about Eastport. It’s a town that’s redefining itself by restoring its downtown and creating offbeat events to attract buzz.
The Pirate Festival is a perfect definition of what I strive for in Edge of America. Thousands of people stream into an underappreciated place to celebrate and participate in an event that simply couldn’t take place anywhere else. You can see pirate bed races, during which the streets are lined with spectators cheering on the participants. You can catch the lobster boat races, in which these creaky boats are outfitted with engines straight out of the Munsters and souped-up to go as fast as 70 miles an hour. You’ll find almost everybody decked out in patches and peg legs and other pirate accessories.
Eastport, for me, was a discovery, with a wonderful waterfront, reasonable restaurants — nothing 5-star, but plenty of New England-styled seafood — and shops and art galleries. It is also a super-quick shot to Canada if you want to ramble more.
Eastport wasn’t my only discovery in our Maine episode. We also filmed in Greenville on Moosehead Lake, hours away and on the Northern border. Moosehead is beautiful. I had my eggs at Auntie M’s, scoured the shelves at the Moosehead Lake Indian Store and took a lengthy morning run through the town. We stumbled upon a fantastic crepe truck run by the daughter of a French immigrant. (Try the lobster, in particular.) And as part of our episode, I got a chance to see Greenville from another angle. I flew with Roger Currier, a veteran seaplane pilot.
Sometimes, when I’m rambling through, I’ll get a sense that the locals wonder if we’re being sincere or whether we’re there to make fun of them. So many TV shows mock people in small towns or in places outside the big city nexus. Not I. The proof, I hope, is in my summer vacation plans.
When it came to finding a place to stay for a couple weeks, I decided to avoid the cliché. We’ve rented a place for 2 weeks this summer in Eastport. I know the kids will get to collect shells and rocks along the shoreline. My wife and I can try to discover great art by artists who haven’t been discovered. And when we’re not doing anything, we’ll just get to sit on our porch, breathe in the salty air, and take pride in our latest discovery.