Saturday, October 11, 2014
Dedicated people in my sweet little town have been working hard for years to revitalize the downtown and attract people to Gardiner. My sense is that this work is starting to pay off. Surely the biggest event hosted by Gardiner Maine Street is our annual Swine and Stein Oktoberfest. This was the fifth annual Swine and Stein, and I’d say it was the best one yet! I had such a fun day and there were smiling people everywhere. Thanks so much to everyone who came, and to Gardiner Maine Street, the vendors, the musicians, and the more than sixty (60!) volunteers who made such a wonderful event possible! Patrick Wright—director of Gardiner Main Street—you deserve a special shout out for a job incredibly well done! Thanks, Patrick! What I saw on Saturday makes me proud to live in Gardiner.
I showed up a few minutes before the gates opened at 11:30AM to grab a donut at Frosty’s and check out the layout since improvements are made each year to strengthen the event. I got to pet baby goats and sleeping piglets on my short walk along Water Street, which only heightened my excitement for Swine and Stein. If you’ve never been to Swine and Stein, we shut down auto traffic on our picturesque main street (Water Street), and host live animals, food vendors (featuring A LOT of local pork), a local beer tent, fun activities for all ages, and live local bands all day. It’s a great day, and this year, the weather cooperated beautifully, too.
I overheard a couple wondering how Swine and Stein works, so I stopped to welcome them and explain the event and show them to the gate. I could hear superstar volunteer Derek Zardus of Zardus Art of Massage & Wellness Spa welcoming people to Gardiner and to Swine and Stein at the gate long before I could see him. We moved quickly through the line, got our three drink tickets (included with admission) cleverly attached to our wristband, and the first 1,000 through the line also got a souvenir 5 oz. tasting glass. Later in the day I saw how many people didn’t have one of those little glasses, so I am guessing a lot more than 1,000 people showed up!
I LOVED the addition of a professional stage with a sound engineer this year! I could hear Sorcha and Monique Barrett playing as I said my hellos and wandered through the food area to scope out what I might want to get for lunch later. Sorcha is a friend in music—she’s played Swine and Stein before and I’m always happy to get to see her live. She and Monique harmonize beautifully, and their covers of “Jolene” and “Crazy” were flawless. I wasn’t taking notes because I wanted to enjoy the day, but I liked the song Sorcha wrote for a friend’s wedding (the name of which I’d normally have jotted down), and one of Monique’s that might be called “Make It Better.” Later in the day, I introduced them to Johnson Hall director Michael Miclon. We talked about having a singer-songwriter circle show at Johnson Hall sometime this season. I took Sorcha and Monique into Johnson Hall to show them the beautifully renovated performance space downstairs and to show off the cleaned up third floor, which is beautiful and totally ready for renovation. Built in 1864, Johnson Hall has been a ballroom, a movie house, and a theatre. Johnson Hall hopes to renovate the upper floors to use for performances and other events. The potential in that space is unreal. Monique and Sorcha talked about how cool it would be to record an album together (since they often play together, but don’t have one) in that space. The acoustics are amazing. When I took them to the top floor, they were so wowed by the beauty of the space that they broke out in song! I have high hopes for the capital campaign and would LOVE to see Johnson Hall restored.
I loved the fun competitions and events that were planned for the day in between bands. The event that stole my heart, however, was the first-ever Swine and Stein Beard and Mustache Competition. Danielle Rodrigue, local beauty expert from Concepts Hair Design and and the MAYOR of Gardiner, Thom Harnett, were the other two judges, and I was thrilled to be asked to join them. I couldn’t believe my eyes when Patrick called contestants to the stage and a wave of beautifully bearded and mustachioed men approached the stage. Did you know there’s a Maine Facial Hair Club? What a great group of guys. We judged in six categories—beards more or less than six inches, partial mustache, freestyle, and a couple of others that I can’t recall since I was on cloud nine the whole time. Clare Marron, Gardiner Maine Street board member and owner of Monkitree, Gardiner’s fine art and craft gallery, organized the event. She worked with The Potter’s House to create amazing mugs (in honor of American Craft Week) for the winners of each category. The winners were thrilled with their surprise award.
The German Oktoberfest Band always sets the perfect mood, and they had people swaying and toasting along. My dear friend Rachel came in her dirndl and valiantly competed in the frozen t-shirt contest, but lost in a very close race to the finish.
I’d never seen Gunther Brown live, even though lead singer Pete Dubuc sent me their music early on in whatbreesees.com and I liked it a lot. Senator Susan Collins and her team were at Swine and Stein, and she stopped to give a wave to the band early in their set. I was especially glad to hear “(Don’t Forget To) Don’t Go” and “Hello Tonight” live.
The rock-paper-scissors competition run by Mike Miclon of Johnson Hall was awesome. He held preliminary rounds earlier in the day that I watched and then the semi finalists joined him at the stage to compete in front of all of the Swine and Stein attendees. It was an absolute hoot to watch, and the winner won two free tickets to any upcoming Johnson Hall event. Patrick Wright called up local bearded men to compete in a scaled down version of the earlier event, and a handful of kids who’d made their own mustaches at the craft table competed as well.
I was glad to see The Jason Spooner Band again. It had been quite a while and they sound great. As the day wound down, The Spare Parts Band, featuring Oakland Farms owner and Gardiner city councilor Logan Johnston took the stage to close the event.
Swine and Stein was a blast this year! I went right home and drank some tea to warm and up promptly ended up taking a nap! Thank you so much to everyone who helped make it a success and we’ll see you next year!