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L.L. Bean bootmobile makes stop at Bangor Gifford’s during tour of state

Kevin Bennett | BDN
Kevin Bennett | BDN
Oscar Martinez (right) photographs his children, Sofia and Oscar, in front of the L.L. Bean bootmobile as it visits Gifford's Ice Cream on Broadway in Bangor on Sunday, July 29, 2012.
By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — Some unusual vehicles have driven out of the Queen City on Route 15 during the past century. Until Sunday afternoon, it’s unlikely any of them looked like the classic L.L. Bean boot.

As the bootmobile pulled into Gifford’s Ice Cream store at the corner of Broadway and Griffin Road, the Pyle family from Hermon jumped out of the family truck. Once the boot was parked, Ethan Pyle, 3, and his brother, Zachary Pyle, 7, posed as their mother, Nicky Pyle took their photo with her cell phone while the dad, Rob Pyle, and grandmother, Brenda Pyle, watched.

“That I want to drive,” Zachary said. “Then, I’ll hang onto the shoelace.”

His father agreed about the driving.

The visit to Bangor was the last stop of the weekend for the bootmobile, which was on a tour of five Gifford’s Ice Cream stores to help promote a flavor called Muddy Bean Boots.

The Skowhegan-based ice cream firm partnered with L.L. Bean to create the flavor for the Freeport-based company’s 100th anniversary, according to a previously published report.

Muddy Bean Boots is made with Gifford’s “Old-Fashioned Vanilla” ice cream, criss-crossed with sweet caramel ripple and tossed with rich chocolate brownie bites. The caramel hearkens to the dark-brown leather Bean boots, Lindsay Gifford-Skilling, Gifford’s vice president of sales, said earlier this year.

And the brownie bits, of course, represent the mud.

L.L.Bean and Gifford’s are donating a portion of the proceeds from the sale of Muddy Bean Boots ice cream to support Healthy Hometowns, a nonprofit Maine-based program that engages young people and their families in active, healthy lifestyles through outdoor recreation.

The Freeport firm also is donating $1 for every person who links their photos with the bootmobile or shares a story about a Bean product on the company’s Facebook page. The goal is to raise $1 million for the National Parks Foundation. So far, nearly $902,000 has been raised toward the goal, according to information on L.L. Bean’s website.

The bootmobile was built in Florida, and started its promotional tour in January at Bean’s manufacturing facility in Brunswick where the actual boots are made according to a previously published report. It is it outfitted with four-wheel drive, a diesel and averages 16 miles to the gallon.

The boot is 13 feet tall, 20.6 feet long and 7.6 feet wide. The laces are tugboat mooring line. And while a famous giant lady resides in New York City, the boot would be too big for her, according to Bean.

The boot would fit someone 143 feet tall, 32 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty, according to a Bean press release issued when the bootmobile debuted.

It was built to help the Maine retailer celebrate its 100th year in business. In 1912, Leon Leonwood Bean founded the company with one product, a hunting boot. His first design failed, and he refunded 92 out of 100 customers their money. But he redesigned the boot and built the rest of the company around the product.

Bean currently has 17 retail stores outside Maine, and 12 outlets throughout New England and the Mid-Atlantic regions.

It opened its first international retail operation in Tokyo in 1992, and now has operations in several cities in Japan. It opened its first store in China in 2008, and now has 30 stores in that country.

The company has annual sales of $1.44 billion, employed more than 4,500 year-round in 2011 and more than 8,700 during the holiday season.

Other stops on its summer tour include:

• Aug. 3 — Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland

• Aug. 11 — KidsFest in Freeport

• Aug. 12 — Senior League World Series in Bangor

• Aug. 18 — Great Falls Balloon Festival in Auburn

• Aug. 19 — L.L. Bean Day at Hadlock Field in Portland

• Aug. 25 — American Folk Festival in Bangor

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