FREEPORT – A crowd collected around Sarah Davis of Richmond at the L.L. Bean store Saturday as she demonstrated the art of vamping, or sewing together the upper and lower parts of the retailer’s signature leather and rubber footwear.

Davis said she and others who work at the Bean manufacturing plant in Brunswick are able to turn out 1,600 pairs of the sturdy boots a day to keep up with the recent surge in demand.

“They are a fashion trend, really popular,” said Davis.

The boot-manufacturing display was one of dozens of free events featured at Maine’s most famous retailer’s 100th-anniversary celebration last week. A four-day extravaganza that drew tens of thousands of visitors from in and out of state, the celebration concluded Saturday night with a performance by Chris Isaak and his band, and fireworks. On Saturday alone, the company expected to host 30,000 people.

The company was founded by Leon Leonwood Bean as a one-man operation that turned out the Maine Hunting Shoe. Today the privately owned business generates $1.4 billion in annual sales of outdoor equipment and apparel to customers in more than 160 countries. It employs 5,500 people, about 4,500 of them in Maine.

On Saturday visitors said they wanted to help mark the anniversary of the state’s largest retailer.

“We are getting to celebrate a part of Maine’s history,” sad Amanda Mahaffey of Brunswick.

She said her father has owned a pair of Bean boots since the 1980s and wears them to shovel snow at his home in New Jersey. Now both she and her husband own Bean boots.

“These are great products that Mainers are producing,” said Mahaffey.

Caryn and Andy Davis of Nassau, N.Y., just outside of Albany, stopped in Freeport on their way to Hermit Island, south of Bath, and were surprised to encounter the celebration. The couple said they couldn’t pass up being photographed in front of the L.L. Bean bootmobile. Andy Davis said the last time he visited the store was 30 years ago, long before downtown Freeport became an outlet mall.

“This has been really interesting, learning about the history,” said Caryn Davis.

Jean Hallett of Titusville, Fla., and her daughter and grandchildren from Connecticut spent Friday at Funtown Splashtown USA in Saco before moving on to Freeport to buy raincoats at L.L. Bean on Saturday on their way to their Camden holiday. She said the anniversary was an unexpected bonus.

“We love L.L. Bean,” said Hallett.

Children said they enjoyed the free events, such as rock climbing, tossing games and entertainment.

Cyrus Morgan, 4, of Berwick, neatly landed several crocheted Frisbee-like discs into Bean tote bags.

“I know how to throw it but not how to catch it,” Cyrus said.

Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

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