About 40 people gathered on Saturday for the annual Strawberry Festival to celebrate Maine’s connection with famous historic writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, whose boyhood home stands on Cape Road in Raymond.

While the shortcake and the chocolate-covered strawberries were an added bonus, members of the Hawthorne Association, a nonprofit group charged with the maintenance of the literary legend’s home, said it’s the history surrounding the author’s connection to Raymond that brings people together.

“We don’t provide anything but history, so the people who are here want to learn about Hawthorne,” said John Manoush, member and former president of the association.

During the past few years, the Hawthorne Association has been losing members, and the festival is one of the best ways to raise awareness and money to preserve the historic integrity of the Hawthorne House.

Jim McAllister of Salem, Massachusetts, an historian and author of two novels about historic Salem, was hired to speak at the festival about Hawthorne’s connection to Maine and Massachusetts.

At the podium, McAllister provided context to Hawthorne’s life, speaking about his corruptive, loving and intellectual character, revealing a humanness of the writer for an audience to whom Hawthorne had previously appeared only as the man who wrote “The Scarlet Letter,” an impressive figure defined only by his literary achievements.

“McAllister really made Hawthorne seem human,” Manoush said.

McAllister said his reason for speaking at the festival stems from his love for small-town America.

“It was a good crowd and I like the casualness of it all. Everyone there had a certain knowledge of Hawthorne’s life in Maine, and I actually started to learn from them,” he said.

Lauren Robertori, an attendee who traveled from Massachusetts for the festival, said, “We learned a lot from a different perspective… it’s interesting to hear his reasons for writing The Scarlet Letter.”

Mary Therese Duffy, a member of the Lakes Region Literary Guild who enjoyed this year’s festival because it provided a rare look into the life of a great writer, argued that Hawthorne’s caliber of artistic vision is rare, if not extinct today.

“Cultural history is what defines our identity, and there is hardly any vision like his available to us in this generation,” she said.

Members of the association said they wish to continue with the type of educational opportunity they offered on Saturday with a guest speaker.

“The turnout was good, and the speaker was great. I think we should continue to offer more education and background with Hawthorne,” said Frank Chambers, president of the Hawthorne Association.

According to association members, the Hawthorne House was built in 1812, where the writer spent a better part of his childhood before going away to college.

The house was later purchased and gutted by a quasi-religious group before being taken over and refurbished by the association in the 1920s.

Since then, it has been the responsibility of the association to restore and maintain the childhood haunt of Nathaniel Hawthorne for the “benefit of the community,” according to Manoush, and events like the Strawberry Festival help to pay for the maintenance.

“It was great this year, it really was. I hope we can do it as well next year,” he said.

The origin of serving strawberries at the festival is unknown, but according to those in attendance on Saturday, it is a sound tradition.

If anyone is interested in more information on the Strawberry Festival or the Hawthorne Association, please contact Chambers at 655-8833, or e-mail him at [email protected]

Guest speaker Jim McAllister delves into the life of Hawthorne, bringing out a

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