As a throng of snowmobile riders piled barbecued chicken onto plates late Saturday morning, Nicholas Alexander of Belgrade sat in his wheelchair on a makeshift stage, a huge grin pasted to his face.
“It was fun,” Alexander said, explaining how much he had enjoyed watching the completion of the egg run, a fund-raising project that has been a highlight of the Pine Tree Ride-In for the past 16 years.
Alexander is one of the beneficiaries of the Q-106.5 Egg Run, and of the Pine Tree Ride-In.
He’s one of the people who spend a week each summer at the Rome summer camp for children and adults with physical or developmental disabilities.
And as Harvey Chesley, Pine Tree Camp’s director of facilities management points out, Alexander is also a foot soldier who works hard to drum up support for the camp.
Last year, campers and supporters raised money to build a handicap-accessible tree house at the camp.
Alexander emerged as the star of the campaign.
“[I raised] $500,” Alexander said proudly, if inaccurately.
Actually, the total was closer to $3,000, Chesley explained.
On Saturday, campers and snowmobilers received word that their efforts had resulted in another banner year for the camp.
Riders headed to Newport from across the state, and organizers scheduled a pair of breakfasts, a barbecue lunch, a fund-raising auction and other events.
And while horse-drawn sleigh rides were taking place on nearby Sebasticook Lake, hundreds of spectators headed to the Sebasticook Valley Community Center to greet Egg Run participants.
J.R. Mitchell of radio station Q-106.5 explained that he and his co-workers and other high-profile guests agreed to stuff one egg in their snowmobile suits for every $50 that was pledged to the Egg Run.
This year, that meant that riders were obliged to mix 640-egg omelets on their snowmobile trek from Levant to Newport.
“We ended up raising $31,800, and in the economy the way it is, we never set a goal,” Mitchell said. “We never knew what to expect. And our listeners and community support was tremendous.”
Mitchell said he’d participated in the last six Egg Runs, and said that his station began the promotion 16 years ago.
“My first year I was concerned with riding snowmobiles with eggs but after you do it once, it’s like an old trick,” Mitchell said. “You just keep doing it and it gets more and more fun every year.”
Fun for the participants, as well as the spectators.
The de-egging process always draws plenty of laughs, and on Saturday, the fun didn’t end even after the eggs had been discarded on the snowy ground. A few brave children (and at least one adult) took turns tromping through the resulting mess.
Chesley said that support from snowmobile enthusiasts has played an integral role in the camp’s programming capabilities over the years the Maine Snowmobile Association has been affiliated with the camp.
“Since 1974 [the Maine Snowmobile Association] has raised about $3.5 million, and in that time, yearly, it represents about 30 percent of our budget,” Chesley said. “Our policy has been, since we started, that we would never turn a child away due to lack of income or financial responsibility, and we’ve been able to keep that going because of what the snowmobilers do. Without that money, we wouldn’t be able to do that.”
Paul Jacques, the deputy commissioner of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, has ridden on several Egg Runs in the past, and has worked with the Pine Tree Camp even before that.
He said that even though Mainers are concerned with the struggling economy, they again pitched in on a worthwhile project.
“Clearly the people of Maine stepped forward in tough times,” Jacques said. “I’m sure a lot of these people gave what they could afford and many of them gave more than they could afford, but for them, it’s worth it.”
Free fishing weekend set
If you don’t get a chance to fish much, and have decided not to purchase a license because of that fact, this weekend could be the perfect time to spend some time outdoors.
The DIF&W is promoting its annual winter Family Fishing Days, which will be held on Saturday and Sunday.
During those days people can fish for free, without licenses, on Maine’s waters. The event is open to any person except those whose licenses have been revoked or suspended. All other fishing rules and regulations are still in effect.
There will be an additional free fishing weekend during open-water season, on May 30-31.