A ride on a Seashore Trolley Museum streetcar can feel like a jaunt to another time and place, which is what the Kennebunkport museum was striving for with its Downeast Meets Dixie dinner party Aug. 19.

Downeast Meets Dixie had chowder and barbecue, bluegrass tunes by Gumption Junction, a bunch of raffle prizes, an array of outfits with mariner and rustler inspiration and – of course – trolleys.

“We love the dress-up events and to have a theme,” said Dottie Sola of Cape Elizabeth. “It’s like Halloween in the middle of August. I love the challenge of trying to find something to wear.”

She was partying with Traci Heyland, Louise Brown and Matt Jarvis, all Wells residents – and antique car owners – dressed in a coordinated cowboy/cowgirl theme.

These friends came to the museum’s speakeasy-themed soiree in 2015 in a 1937 Cadillac, and to the “Mad Men” party in 2016 in a 1965 Mustang. Alas, this year’s event fell on a night with driving rain. Fortunately, the weather didn’t stop volunteer trolley operators from taking guests for 3-mile round-trip joy rides around the property. The museum has 60 qualified operators, some of whom are retirees who come up from Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

“Ninety percent of the work done here is done by volunteers,” said Roger Tobin of Arundel, a volunteer operator who was taking guests for rides on a 1914 trolley car originally from Dallas. “It’s a village of skills.”

“We all volunteer,” said Jim Tirrell of Kennebunk, who goes by the nickname “the Captain,” with his wife, Rita, and adult son, Brendan, who goes by the nickname “the Colonel.” Jim takes care of the gardens, Rita does whatever’s needed, and, for Brendan, the streetcars are his passion. He’s certainly not alone, given that several trolley lovers, including volunteer Paul Kochs, move to the area to be closer to the museum.

Museum President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Schantz has been at least a visitor since 1962. “Ever since I was the smallest child, I had an interest in the streetcars,” he said.

“It’s like working with model trains where 12 inches equals 1 foot,” said Edward Dooks, a museum trustee from Massachusetts. “And the history of the cars is just incredible.”

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer from Scarborough. She can be reached at:

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