Norway Snowshoe Festival kicks off next Friday

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NORWAY — The sixth annual Norway Maine Snowshoe Festival is Friday, Feb. 12, through Sunday, Feb. 14. The event features a unique exhibit of historic Norway-made and native North American snowshoes and Paris Manufacturing Company sleds, skis and wagons, snowshoe walks, snowshoe races, snowshoe games for the whole family and the Mellie Dunham Valentines’ Contra Dance. 

FESTIVAL PAST — Brad Demers, Scott Berk, Scott Vlaun in the 100-yard dash.
FESTIVAL PAST — Brad Demers, Scott Berk, Scott Vlaun in the 100-yard dash.

Recognized in 2012 by the Maine Downtown Center as a uniquely Maine festival, the Norway Snowshoe Festival returns for its sixth year to celebrate Norway’s rich cultural heritage of arts and crafts.

This year’s festival will take place with support from Norway Downtown, Healthy Oxford Hills, Western Foothills Land Trust, United Way of Oxford County and Great Maine Outdoor Weekend.

Farmington celebrates Chester Greenwood, who invented the ear muff, Kingfield has the Stanley Museum honoring the Stanley twins, and Rockland prides itself as the birthplace of Louise Nevelson and Edna St. Vincent Millay. Norway has its snowshoe industries and Mellie Dunham.

Norway, once self-proclaimed as “The Snowshoe Town of America,” was home to four major snowshoe industries between 1850 and 1980: Dunham, H.H. Hosmer, Snocraft and Tubbs. Norway snowshoes took Rear Admiral Robert Peary to the North Pole, Rear Admiral Richard Byrd to the South Pole, and supported U.S. troops during WWI and WWII.

There will be a Norway-made snowshoes and Paris Manufacturing Company Special Exhibit on display from Feb. 12 to 14, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily at Pa’s Antique Attic, 1192 Main St., Oxford.

Paul Cote has put together an unique exhibit of his exceptional collection of more than 300 pairs of Norway-made, Maine-made and Native North American-made snowshoes.

In addition, he will exhibit the best of his Paris Manufacturing Company collection, including early painted sleds, skis, children’s wagons and doll carriages.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the best of the best assembled in one place. A $3 contribution is requested. Proceeds will benefit the Norway Food Pantry. Free coffee will be provided by Route 26 Antiques.

The festival will start at 10 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 12, with President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday snowshoe walk at Shepard’s Farm Preserve, 121 Crockett Ridge Road, Norway. The preserve features six Bernard Langlais sculptures and a one-mile snowshoe loop trail. Snowshoes are available upon request. Stove top hats are suggested.

Dunham was not only the first commercial snowshoe maker in town, outfitting Admiral Peary’s expedition to the North Pole, he was also a renowned fiddler, who was commissioned by Henry Ford to play traditional fiddle music across the country.

In honor of Dunham’s talents, the Norway Snowshoe Festival always involves a contra dance in addition to athletic and family friendly outdoor snowshoe events.

SOLITUDE — Jackie Lemieux, who lives in the Berkshires in Massachusetts, starting the second leg of her 10k race. She is a Mellie Dunham descendant and runs trails and runs snowshoe races in western MA. She has come for every Snowshoe Festival.
SOLITUDE — Jackie Lemieux, who lives in the Berkshires in Massachusetts, starting the second leg of her 10k race. She is a Mellie Dunham descendant and runs trails and runs snowshoe races in western MA. She has come for every Snowshoe Festival.

This year’s contra dance will be held at the Norway Grange, where Dunham and fellow snowshoe maker Nate Noble often performed, on Friday, Feb. 12, from 6 to 8 p.m. Pam Weeks will play fiddle, Bill Olson will call. The dance is suitable for all ages and experience levels. A $5 contribution is requested. No street shoes  are allowed on the dance floor.

On Saturday, Feb. 13, the United Way of Oxford County will hold its “cupid dash” snowshoe races at Roberts Farm Preserve, 64 Roberts Road, Norway, at 9:30 a.m. Three races – a 2.5k, 5k and 10k – are offered. All proceeds benefit the good works of the United Way. Snowshoes are available upon request.

The annual Family Snow Shoe Games, including the annual world’s only Snowshoe Wife Carry, will be held at Roberts Farm Preserve, 64 Roberts Road, from 10 a.m. to noon. Snowshoes are available on site.

Norway-made snowshoes will be on display at Cafe Nomad on Main Street along with chocolate snowshoes made by Maine Gourmet Chocolates and snowshoe valentines with Mellie Dunham lyrics. Cards and chocolates will also be available at Books N Things, also on Main Street in Norway.

This year’s festival is also part of the Great Maine Outdoor Weekend, which promotes outdoor activities across Maine. For more information, visit greatmaineoutdoorweekend.org.

2016 Norway Snowshoe Festival Activities

Friday, Feb. 12

10 a.m.–12 p.m. Lincoln’s Birthday Snowshoe at Shepard’s Farm Preserve, 121 Crockett Ridge Road, Norway

6-8 p.m. Valentine’s Contra Dance at the Norway Grange Hall, 15 Whitman St., $5 donation

Saturday, Feb. 13 9:30 a.m.

2.5k, 5k and 10k Snowshoe Races at Roberts Farm Preserve, 64 Roberts Road, Norway.

Benefits United Way of Oxford County. $20. www.runsignup.com/Race/ME/SouthParis/RockPaperScissors5KSeries

Sunday, Feb. 14 10 a.m.-12 p.m.

Family Snow Shoe Games at Roberts Farm Preserve

1k Relay, 3-legged race, 100-yard dash, Egg & Spoon, Pulk Pull, Musical Chairs, world’s only Snow Shoe Wife Carry

Feb. 12-14, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily

Unique Maine Snowshoe, Sled, Ski Exhibit – Pa’s Antique Attic, 1192 Main St., Oxford.

Norway Maine-made snowshoes, Native North American snowshoes, Paris Manufacturing Co. sleds, wagons, skis, carriages

$3 donation, benefits Norway Food Pantry