Next time you’re soaking in the carnival musk of Old Orchard Beach, put this in your rum punch and sip it: The Pier at OOB is like the Wes Welker of 20th-century Maine nightlife. Beginning in 1898 and continuing to the present day, the plucky structure has taken the tough hits from Mother Nature and popped right up for the next play. Fires, blizzards and tidal storms have not dampened the Maine tourists’ “feva” for the “flava,” now 100 years strong.

The Pier Patio Pub, home today to nostalgic tunes, steady waves and beach cheeseburgers, was mostly a casino in its venerable life, boasting a ballroom that once hosted the lizardy likes of Frank Sinatra and Benny Goodman. It’s an odd partnership, really; the colorful candy screams of teens on thrill rides all day long, mixed with many a lascivious growl on the sin-friendly Pier once the sun goes down.

I have a pina colada and the sea is cast in a gloaming glow, a few waterbugs still splashing and hollering two stories below. There’s something so undeniably fun about sitting atop these stilts; an assumption of risk, the whiff of danger. Its charge is in everyone here too, each giddy come-on throwing caution to the wind. I really dig it, actually, and not just because people here are young and fun and friendly. It’s a treasure because ladies in their gowns and men in their hats came here 112 years ago to indulge, to throw it all away for a night. On these same soggy planks, how many booties have been shaken? Tens of thousands over a century?

Haters would have you dismiss the Pier for its simple, glossy fun, but they are surely missing the point. In Maine, for the last century, this is where adults came to dance with the devil, drunk or sober, single or not. Laying their cards on the table, Mainers have lost and gained gold, seduced with abandon, and have essentially wedded themselves to this glorious place hovering above the gray seas.

Haters can’t hear the siren’s song for the yelping clown across the way. Old Orchard Beach deserves to be fully reckoned with — it provides a nice mirror for where you’re at on a given day. And who knows, just maybe you’ll meet somebody to be bad with at OOB forever.


Mike Olcott is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.


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