Custom Publication of the Bangor Daily News

The Way Life Should Be: Maine’s Great Outdoors at the American Folk Festival

Posted Aug. 20, 2012, at 2:37 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 21, 2012, at 11:11 a.m.

This year, the Folk and Traditional Arts Area at the festival focuses on Maine’s outdoor life, especially the traditional crafts and occupations that are reflected in the hunting and fishing traditions that Maine is known for. The University of Maine’s Folklife Center, Hudson Museum, and Page Farm and Home Museum are featuring Maine artists who create materials used in outdoor life such as pack baskets and fishing creels, canoes, animal and bird calls, decoys and fly fishing rods and flies. On the narrative stage in addition to meeting the traditional artists, audiences will hear Registered Maine Guides and Maine Game Wardens talk about their experiences in the Maine woods.

DEMONSTRATIONS

Bill Mackowski – Milford

Snowshoes, pack baskets, and fishing creels are Mackowski’s specialty. He began making baskets seriously in the early 1980s and today produces 40–50 pack baskets and 25 or 30 creels a year. He sells most of his pack baskets right out of his shop; the advertising is all done by word of mouth. He also makes limited-edition baskets that are available through the Orvis Company. Mackowski’s interest in basket making is an extension his life as a Maine guide, trapper and bush pilot. He has traveled extensively throughout the Northeast and northern Canada, from Labrador to the Yukon, Minnesota to the Gaspé of Quebec.

In his travels, Mackowski has met a number of fine woodsmen, who all construct their own pack baskets. Mackowski’s association with and growing interest in pack baskets and creels naturally turned to a desire to make them himself. He has learned from many, but holds a special affection for two men in particular: Jack Leadley of Speculator, N.Y., and Larry Hurd from Bangor.

Mackowski has spent the last few years documenting these older pack basket makers in Maine, and has deposited his research with the Maine Folklife Center.

Thomas Coté – Limestone

Thomas Coté was born in Caribou in 1948, lived in Caswell for 19 years, served in the Army for three years, and spent one year in Vietnam. He is retired and has an art studio where he gives classes four nights a week and also private lessons.

Coté comes from a long line of woodcarvers, stretching from his great-great grandfather, Jean Baptiste Coté, a noted carver from Quebec, to his mother who first showed him how to use a jackknife when he was 12 years old. He is a master traditional wood carver, and he carves in the French-Canadian style of high relief and in the round. He is the fourth generation carver in the Coté family. His granddaughter, who is one of his apprentice’s, represents the 5th generation.

Sharon Wright – Lisbon

Sharon E. Wright is a custom fly designer from Lisbon. She is an artisan by trade with deep roots in Maine’s historic sporting heritage. Wright’s great-great-great grandfather, Joshua Gross Rich, founded Angler’s Retreat sporting camp at Middle Dam on the Rapid River in the mid-1800s. It is believed that Angler’s Retreat was the first sporting camp in the Rangeley Lakes Region. He was an avid outdoorsman and wrote many articles on Maine wildlife for local newspapers and magazines.

Wright has an inherited love of angling and interest in Maine’s outdoor heritage. Her commemorative and dedication streamers are tied “Rangeley” style (also known as Carrie Stevens style), often have Maine themes, and incorporate natural materials harvested locally. Her work has been presented recently at The Fly Fishing Show in Massachusetts and New Jersey. As a Maine celebrity tyer at the L.L.Bean Spring Fishing Weekend this March, she presented the L.L.Bean 100th Anniversary Streamer that was featured in a recent issue of Fly Tyer magazine.

Butch Phillips – Milford

Reuben “Butch” Phillips was born and raised on Indian Island, the ancestral homeland of the Penobscot Nation, near Old Town. Following graduation from high school, he served with the United States Army. His career as an electronic and radio technician was spent with AT&T and New England Telephone. He and his wife live in Milford, across the Penobscot River from the Penobscot Nation Reservation.

He served the Penobscot Nation as Lieutenant Governor from 1983 to 1984 and chaired its Fish and Game Committee for 15 years. He is especially interested in environmental preservation and is an active member of the Penobscot River Restoration Trust. Phillips will exhibit traditional birch bark canoes, paddles, baskets, moose calls, and more.

David Van Burgel and Kathy Scott, Ardea Bamboo Rods – Mercer

David Van Burgel and Kathy Scott share a life immersed in bamboo. Now respected on a national level, David began making split cane fly rods to help assure the continuance of a craft that has long roots in Maine; Scott wrote her first book to document the process. By her third and fourth books, she was making fly rods, too. Together, they teach rod-making both in Maine and for the Catskills Fly Fishing Center and Museum in New York, and they speak about the history and craft of bamboo rod-making at fly fishing shows and events.

As anglers concerned about conservation, both are active in Trout Unlimited and the Atlantic Salmon Federation. Van Burgel signature fly rods raise funds for river restoration, including the Penobscot, and he serves on the National Leadership Council for TU. Scott’s writings appear in angling magazines across the country; her work is highlighted as part of the “A Graceful Rise” exhibit at the American Museum of Fly Fishing. They share their beaver ponds and forest home in Mercer with two adventurous dogs, Effie and Midge.

NARRATIVE STAGE

MAINE GUIDES

Randy Spencer – Grand Lake Stream and Holden

For the past 14 years, Maine’s “Singing Guide” Randy Spencer has been a full-time professional fishing guide in the Grand Lake Stream Region. In the off-season, he lives with his wife, Shelley, and their English Springer Spaniel, Kafka, in Holden. From his own recording studio there, he has recorded three albums of Native music and two documentaries for the History and Preservation Office of the Passamaquoddy Tribe.

In 2005 Randy was named by Portland Magazine one of the “10 Most Intriguing People in Maine,” and in 2006 he was named by Yankee Magazine “One of the 25 people you need to meet most this summer.” In addition to appearing on CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood, ESPN2, MPBN with Keith Shortall, and on Boston Channel 5’s Chronicle, Randy has been the subject of numerous articles, including a Wall Street Journal front page feature.

Spencer’s first book, “Where Cool Waters Flow: Four Seasons with a Master Maine Guide” won the New England Outdoor Writers Association Best Book of 2010 award. His second book is in the making. Randy has released five CDs of his own songs as well as a box set anthology.

Dave and Linda Kelso – Sinclair

Muskie Moose LLC offers on a limited basis guided trips in Northern Maine for moose hunting, muskie fishing, and a limited amount of upland game hunting and fly fishing. Dave Kelso has been a guide since his 18th birthday in 1979.

He guided the first moose hunt in 1980 in Maine. He has not missed a year since then. He is on his way to being the first guide in Maine to get 100 moose for his clients. In addition to being a Master Maine Guide, Dave Kelso is considered one of the best moose callers in North America. He has hunted in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, the Canadian Provinces, as well as Europe. He is sought after as a seminar speaker on moose, moose calling, moose hunting and moose behavior and biology in the United States, Canada, and Europe.

The couple also work with the Becoming an Outdoors-Woman program in Maine. They are offering three courses this year in fly fishing, trapping, and moose calling. Linda is also a professional dog trainer for pointing dogs as well as tracking dogs for finding wounded game. She is also one of few women who are Master Maine Guides and can stand behind what the license means.

MAINE GAME WARDENS

Doug Tibbetts – Bangor

Doug Tibbetts is a sportsmen and self described “Mainer” who served 39 years as a game warden from 1970 to 2009. He received his formal training for this occupation at the University of Maine in 1971, where warden training was held until 1974. Doug served as district warden, sergeant, and lieutenant in several areas of the state, including Aroostook County, Greenville, Bangor, Newport, and Southern Maine. Doug found the occupation fascinating, especially because Maine Game Wardens have a closely guarded kinship between each other that nobody else can truly understand, along with a developed, special understanding and knowledge of the people using Maine’s natural resources. Tibbetts lives in Bangor with his wife, Barbara. He will share stories of his experiences as a game warden on the narrative stage.

Eric Wight – Bethel

Eric served the Maine Warden Service from 1963 to 1985 after spending some time in the Maine Forest Service. Originally thinking he might like to be a forester, he decided the Warden Service would be more fun, and he had friends in the service who encouraged him to apply. He attended warden school in Augusta and Orono. Wight was involved in many search and rescues, working in Eastport, Medway/Grindstone and in Baxter State Park and Patten on the East Branch of the Penobscot River. He received additional training from the National Park Service in the early 1980s and was appointed on-scene commander for the Southern Overhead Team overseeing search and rescue operations. In 1965 Maine established a six-person alpine and underwater rescue team that he also took part in. Wight wrote and published the book “Maine Game Wardens” in 1985. Wight lives with his wife, Karen, in Bethel. He will share stories of his experiences as a game warden on the narrative stage.

FOLK PRESERVERS

Maine Folklife Center, University of Maine

Stories about Maine outdoor life, whether it be working in the woods as a lumberman, serving as a Maine Guide or game warden, running a sporting camp, attending deer camp, or making the articles needed for outdoor life such as pack baskets and fishing rods, are collected and housed in the archives of the Maine Folklife Center at the University of Maine.

The center‘s mission is to research, teach about, preserve, publish, provide public programming and engage communities in the vernacular arts and culture of Maine and the Maritime Provinces. The Maine Folklife Center offers courses in folklore and oral history through the anthropology department, publishes an annual monograph series, Northeast Folklore, occasional publications, and the Maine Folklife Newsletter. The Center staff conducts research about traditional culture in Maine and the Maritime Provinces, and provides research opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students. The Maine Folklife Center maintains the Northeast Archives of Folklore and Oral History (more than 3,000 accessions of audio recordings and transcripts, 10,000 photographs), and provides preservation services to other archives. The Maine Folklife Center continues to provide expertise to communities in documenting their culture and produces the Folk and Traditional Arts area of the American Folk Festival on the Bangor Waterfront.

Hudson Museum, University of Maine

Among the collections of the Hudson Museum are Maine Indian holdings that were essential to forest life ways in the Northeast. These include snowshoes, birch bark canoes, tumplines, moose calls, creels, and pack baskets. These objects were known for their durability, utility, and beauty and were coveted by those who frequent the Maine woods. All of these Maine Indian artistic and cultural traditions extend back in time thousands of years and connect all of us with these ancestral art forms of the forest.

The Hudson Museum is located in the Collins Center for the Arts at the University of Maine in Orono. The Museum features the Merritt Gallery for temporary exhibits and two permanent galleries; the World Cultures Gallery; a Maine Indian Gallery; the Shoemaker Gallery; and an interactive Culture Lab. Through its exhibits and programs, the Hudson Museum celebrates a world of culture and cultures of the world. The Museum’s collections include an extraordinary assemblage of pre-Columbian artifacts ranging from Olmec to Aztec (the William P. Palmer III Collection); Native American holdings from Maine, the Southwest, Northwest Coast, Arctic, and Plains; and collections from Africa, Oceania, and Asia.

Page Farm and Home Museum, University of Maine

Rural farmers frequently used the Maine woods to supplement their income and their diets. Mainers hunted, trapped, fished and collected mushrooms and maple sap for both nutrition and flavor. Farmers frequently went off to work in the woods in winter cutting timber to provide much-needed cash for their families back home on the farm. The museum’s exhibit will showcase artifacts representing how rural Maine farm families used the Maine woods to improve and preserve their way of life.

The Page Farm and Home Museum showcases agricultural and domestic life in Maine from 1865 to 1940. The Museum is located on the University of Maine campus in Orono, within the historic 1833 White Farm Barn, an 1855 schoolhouse from Holden, a carriage house, blacksmith shop and heirloom gardens. The Museum venerates Maine heritage by cultivating awareness and appreciation of the state’s rural history. Thousands of patrons, many of them schoolchildren, visit each year to learn about the industry, agriculture, economy, and home life of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Museum also upholds the University’s educational mission through its public events, lecture series, curriculum-intensive school programs, and outreach services. The Museum is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 9 AM to 4 PM. www.umaine.edu/pagefarm.

FOLK STORIES

In the office trailer marked “Mainers Speak,” we are recording Mainers’ stories of the woods and forest recreation for future generations. Volunteers will record on digital recordings, and these recordings will be preserved in the archives of the Maine Folklife Center for present and future students, researchers or the interested public. If you have a story to tell, stop by and sign up for a time, and our students will be happy to hear and record you. We will also provide you with a copy for yourself if you leave your name and address so that we can send it to you.

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