A couple decades ago, I met a woman from Kansas who was making her first trip to Maine. When I told her where I was from, she asked me what I thought was an odd question: “Is that near Old Town?”
Brewer was, in fact, near Old Town. But why was she asking?
“Because I’ve always heard about Old Town Canoe, and wanted to go there some day,” she replied.
According to Lloyd Hall, the retail manager at Old Town Canoe, those kinds of conversations are actually pretty common. And he’s got the map to prove it.
“We get people who will drive for days to be here. People come here just to visit. It’s on their bucket list,” Hall said. “We’ve got a visitor map here in the store with all 50 states and probably 60 or 70 countries represented of people who have just come to see the place.”
This weekend, Old Town Canoe will give visitors from away — as well as those from nearby — another reason to visit their factory: It’s time for the “Summer Sizzler.”
Hall explained that this year, the company’s popular spring boat sale, during which paddlers flock to Old Town and save tons of cash on “blem,” or slightly imperfect, and overstocked boats, was not held at the factory. Instead, dealers across the state held a weekend-long sale in lieu of the traditional event.
“[We] let [dealers] really get the first shot at spring consumers, but we still have a need to work through the blems here at the factory, so we’ve merged the June sale and the September sale into a big summer event,” Hall said.
Thus, the Summer Sizzler: A perfect way for visitors (and paddling Mainers) to get their hands on a new boat or accessories at reduced prices.
The sale will run from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday. And there will be plenty of products up for grabs.
“There should be just about 1,000 boats available. Canoes, kayaks — from starter boats to high-end composites,” Hall said. “We’re even having a silent auction on some composite boats, which is a great opportunity to get a heck of a deal on a high-end boat.”
First-time visitors can find the Old Town Canoe factory on Gilman Falls Avenue (Route 43). Just take Interstate 95 to Exit 197 and head toward downtown Old Town. Stop when you see dozens of cars parked alongside the road.
Hall said the on-site sales that Old Town Canoe previously has staged always have proved popular.
“I’d like to say that we’re always out front on new and exciting products and we have been for 113 years,” Hall said. “But I think there’s something to coming to the factory and being right here where they’re made and having the opportunity to buy here that excites people, as well.”
Shooting sports day on tap
Getting involved in the shooting sports can sometimes seem an intimidating task, especially for those who didn’t grow up around hunters or gun enthusiasts. The learning curve seems steep. The initial investment can seem extreme. And it’s often difficult to know which way to turn to find good advice.
The Penobscot County Conservation Club is again staging an event that will remove a lot of the confusion and will allow newcomers to get top-notch advice and instruction from experts who have years of experience with firearms.
Called “Introduction to Shooting Sports,” the program is funded by a grant from the National Rifle Association Foundation, and will give novices a chance to learn skills in a controlled, safe settings.
The program is set for Saturday, Aug. 6. It will be hosted by the Hampden Rifle and Pistol Club and the Hermon Skeet Club. Two sessions will be held at each location: one from 9 a.m. until noon and one from 1 to 4 p.m.
In all, 100 people will be given the chance to try their hand at skeet, trap and sporting clays at the Hermon facility, and to try rifle, pistol, cowboy action and action pistol events in Hampden.
The event is free, and all participants will receive safety classes and ear protection. Use of all guns and ammo and lunch are all included.
The catch: If you want to take part, you’ve got to reserve a spot. To do so, call Charlie Rumsey at 941-8575. Those under age 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.
Now, a quick (and unsolicited) endorsement: I attended the program a couple years ago and had an absolute ball. The instructors were fantastic, safety was the top priority, and I learned more in a day than I thought possible. If you’ve got any interest in shooting sports, I’d make the call right away.
And if you’ve been looking for a way to introduce a friend, spouse or loved one to the sports you love and haven’t been able to make it happen, this might be just the program you’ve been looking for.