WEST BATH, Maine — Granges, places of congregation in what once was a rural nation, have closed by the dozens in Maine over the past few decades.
Rarely, if ever, do you hear of a Grange reopening. Until now.
At 6 p.m. Tuesday, Maine State Grange Vice President Vicki Huff will swear in Will Snow as master of the newly-chartered West Bath Seaside Grange.
Snow has requested that the Grange be so-named in remembrance of the Grange hall in Bristol that has closed.
“I’ve done a crash course in the patrons of husbandry [the practice of cultivating land or breeding animals] in the past 12 weeks,” an enthusiastic Snow said Friday. “We hope to be a very big voice in the community.”
Snow, 42, who grew up in Bath, has resided for the past 12 years in neighboring West Bath.
As he put it, he didn’t know what a Grange hall was when he was growing up. That would not make him unusual for somebody his age.
Director of a dance troupe, Snow happened to be searching the area for a place for his dancers to practice. Someone suggested the West Bath Grange, a three-story building just off the U.S. Route 1 West Bath exit.
“I just kept driving out by there,” he recalled, “and it just called out to me. I like the motto: ‘American values and hometown roots.’”
Snow contacted the Maine State Grange and was on his way. The West Bath Grange has been vacant for about two years, he said. The last local family to be involved was the Haines family.
On Tuesday night, Huff will swear in Snow, a secretary, a treasurer and other charter members of the West Bath Seaside Grange.
“It’s basically a place for the community to come together,” Snow said, “and we’ve lost our sense of community. I want the elderly people of this area to know that people of my age do care. I’ll be very honored to do so.”
Snow said the West Bath Grange will meet on the first Tuesday of every month.
First, he said, the new members will close the doors, clean the building, and be ready for the first baked-bean supper by 7 p.m.
Charter members will be recruiting to make this a healthy Grange.
“It’s a great hall,” he said. “It’s got a beautiful stage — everything.”
“Anything that can be done class-wise, it can be done right in that building,” he said. “Membership will have its privilege.”