LIBERTY — The town office probably would be decorated a little differently if residents had chosen Fruitfield or Pearl – the other names they considered before Liberty was incorporated in 1827.
By a filing cabinet in the clerk’s office hangs a slate slab with a flag and the first line of a well-known patriotic tune: “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty …”
Above the entrance is a metal sign painted red, white and blue with a single star and the town’s name – what also happens to be an unalienable right granted to all Americans in the Declaration of Independence, adopted 238 years ago Friday, the Fourth of July.
The decorations have nothing to do with the holiday. They’re there all year long.
While many Maine communities celebrate Independence Day with festivals and fireworks, aside from a chicken barbecue put on by the fire department, July 4 is just another day for Liberty.
The same goes for Freedom and Union, other towns west of the midcoast where the first settlers fought for the nation’s independence and named their new homes in that spirit.
Their lack of festivities this weekend doesn’t mean the towns aren’t patriotic. It’s just that their national pride transcends the federal holiday.
“It’s always there. It never goes away,” said Paul Flynn, owner of the Freedom General Store, whose polo shirt bears an American flag embroidered below the store’s name.
Outside the store is a cutout of a 19th-century general, mounted on a wall by a window with a neon Budweiser sign and the lit-up logo of the New England Patriots – the silhouette of a minuteman.
Inside hangs the iconic yellow flag with the coiled rattlesnake and the words “Don’t tread on me.” Strung from the ceiling is a “United We Stand” banner that’s been up since the town’s bicentennial celebration, a year ago this weekend, when fireworks, an antique car show, a ball game and a barbecue took over the town.
“Last year would have been the time,” Selectman Ron Price said of celebrating the Fourth of July in Freedom. Most years, he said, “we don’t do much.”
On Wednesday, the Union Historical Society commemorated the 200th anniversary of “The Star-Spangled Banner” with the singing of the national anthem, a slide show on the history of the American flag and refreshments.
On the weekend of July 19, the town will hold its annual celebration of Founders Day, the anniversary of the first tree felled in Union – something that happened the year before the start of the Revolutionary War.
As for observing Independence Day as a town, “we don’t,” said the historical society’s curator, Suzy Shaub. “I think they did in the past.”
There are other signs of the town’s national pride, she said. Just look at the flags that fly all summer on every telephone pole leading up to the town common, where two veterans monuments have been erected.
“That’s an indication of the strength of patriotism,” said Shaub.
Granville Knowles, a 30-year resident of Union, said people in town tend to celebrate the holiday privately, with “a picnic or something.”
Liberty’s lakeside residents get a little rowdier, shooting off fireworks from shore.
“It’s like a competition,” said Karen Lewis, who lives on Little Lake St. George.
When it comes to town-sponsored celebrations, the big parade happens on Memorial Day. That’s when Sue Martin started giving out American flags that remained after veterans’ gravestones were decorated in neighboring Montville.
There was still a bucket of flags left this week, and she put them out on the porch in front of Liberty Graphics, where she works.
Marcia Holman, who grew up in the area and comes back every year to visit relatives in Liberty, said it’s not flags or parades that reflect the town’s nationalism. It’s the character of the people and the quality of life, she said while popping in and out of the few shops on Main Street.
“This is the epitome of small-town America,” she said.