While the weather didn’t cooperate for Guilford Historical Society’s Annual Harvest Fair on Saturday, October 3, shuttering craft tents and impacting attendance, there were plenty of takers for the bountiful potluck lunch. And with good reason.
Just have a look at the picture to the left. Crocks of baked beans and fish chowder rubbed up against platters of Shepherd’s Pie and a rich and gooey macaroni-and-cheese. Yeast rolls competed for space with potato salad. And don’t even get me started about the pumpkin pie squares!
In fact, the entire luncheon was a kind of rich, celebratory dessert for the Guilford team, who in the hour prior to the feast, rolled out their Maine Community Heritage Project for all the world to see.
Okay, I’ll admit it: We had a few less bodies in the room during that hour than when the covers were off the soup pots, but for a drizzly, dank day, it was still a very respectable 28 members of this small central Maine town of just over 1,500.
And it was very respectably MC’d by team member and town manager, Tom Goulette. Part funny man, part town scholar-historian, and all-around big-hearted guy, Tom gets the MCHP to a T. He explained to the crowd why–while the celebration of local history is the both the moving force and the prime destination of the project–it is as much about community collaboration and economic development as anything.
After a presentation on the Maine Memory Network by MCHP Community Partnership Coordinator, Larissa Vigue Picard, two other team members followed Tom’s lead by sharing their hopes for the project. First, Siefert “Stub” Schultz, president of the Guilford Historical Society, expressed his enthusiasm for the access the MCHP will provide to otherwise little known historical materials. Then, through the power of story, he reminded audience members that there’s plenty of reason to be proud of their heritage.
Referring to the first family to settle in the town in 1806, Stub explained how the parents left their three boys–ages 11, 12, and 13–in charge of the property and the cow during that first winter, while they went back to the original homesite in New Gloucester. The boys survived on potatoes, milk, corn, and boiled wheat. “That’s the kind of stock we in Guilford come from,” said Stub.
The audience then got a peek at some of Guilford’s most recent stock, Piscataquis Community Middle School 8th-grade students Elaine Ritano and Spencer Martell. Social Studies teacher and team member Rex Webb introduced them as lead students on the project, and Elaine spoke about her interest in learning more about her community’s history.
Ready for the challenge, Rex’s 8th graders will chip away through the next several months at the team’s list of 150+ items to be digitized. Along with some writing class students, they will also build an exhibit on area schools and education in Guilford. Like those first teens to weather a Guilford winter, no doubt next spring they will emerge victorious, and with boosted confidence, for having met the challenge.
Meanwhile, the team members will set about building their own exhibits. Initial ideas include the way Guilford has continually remade itself via industry; the power and pleasure of annual community events (like the Harvest Fair); the architecture and value of town buildings; and stories of some of the town’s most celebrated veterans.
“But these aren’t written in stone,” said Tom, inviting the community to add comments to the posters, and brand new ideas to a survey created by team leader and coordinator extraordinaire Cindy Woodworth (who is as good behind-the-scenes as Tom is out front). “We want you to tell us what’s important to you,” he said, “because this is for all of us.”