Sure signs of spring are all around us, as the snow melts and living things begin to stir. The incessant two-note “song” of the phoebe, which will drive me absolutely crazy by July, sounds like music to my ears in March. The mud on my boots reminds me that winter has lost her frigid grip, and that I need to plug in my sump pump before my basement becomes a swimming pool. And I was startled by a little face peering in my kitchen window on Sunday, especially when I realized it was a fat furry skunk! The old timers warned me that Bennett Street is nicknamed “Skunk Alley,” and the pungent smell is a reminder that they’re out on the town.

It is wonderful to see my neighbors emerge from hibernation, too, as we greet the warm sun and start our spring cleaning. Congratulations to my new neighbors Gary and Sue Bonnell, who bought the house across the street from me and will undertake an ambitious and long-awaited renovation. If the restoration they did on their stunning farmhouse on Kansas Road is any indication, my dreams for a beautiful Bennett Street are coming true. Bridgton has so many lovely old homes and so much potential; it is heartening to see people like the Bonnells choose to live here and contribute to the charm and potential of the Middle Village. Stop by and see the progress…I’ll be the neighbor in muck boots and Carhartts, raking up the detritus of winter and welcoming spring with open arms.

Pedal Power

Now that the Bicycle Coalition of Maine has announced that they have chosen Bridgton as one of the overnight stops on their summer tour, we are rallying for volunteers to assist the 400 hungry, thirsty and deep-pocketed cyclists who will be camping out on Depot Street this Sept. 14th.

The back 40 of the Community Center will host a traveling circus of cyclists, and crews from the

Coalition will roll in early to set up massage and first aid tents, portapotties and a beer garden. The BCC’s Commercial kitchen will be used by chefs to prepare Maine-grown food for the riders, and organizers encourage local businesses to reach out to the participants. Last year the event brought cyclists from 34 states and five foreign countries, and dropped almost $400,000 into local communities along the route.

We are holding a public forum on Thursday, April 9, to discuss all aspects of the event. This informational meeting will be held from 5-7 p.m. in the downstairs meeting room at the municipal office, and there will be refreshments. This will be a stellar party that will involve the entire town, and we need your help. It’s going to be awesome, so join us and be a part of this historic event. Call me for more information, and I’ll see you there!

Love Your Mother

Earth Day is upon us, and the annual town-wide cleanup is under way. Every year the Community Center partners with local nonprofits and service groups to give Bridgton a deep cleaning, and every year I am amazed by how much garbage has piled up. We’ve pulled tires, bicycles and even a shopping cart out of Stevens Brook! It is so lame that some people are such slobs, but fortunately we aren’t afraid to get mucky and slog in to pull it all out.

Please join us for a few hours or all day. This is a fun event for the entire family, and a great way to put the shine on Bridgton before the summer assault of visitors. Just come to the Community Center on Depot Street after 8 a.m. with gloves, sturdy boots, rakes, whatever you’ve got. We’ll provide you with trash bags and other tools, and deeply appreciate your help keeping the scene green!

Contractor Classes

In this competitive construction market, contractors need to buff up their resumes and bring special skills to the table. One way to set yourself apart is to be certified in lakefront erosion control and environmentally sound business practices.

The Lakes Environmental Association is hosting its annual Contractor Certification Course on Thursday, April 16, from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. This program recognizes contractors who have made an effort to educate themselves about proper erosion control and is an excellent way of obtaining referrals and keeping up to date on environmental laws and standards.

The course includes workshops on sedimentation control management practices and helps prevent the negative impacts of erosion and sedimentation pollution. It is run in conjunction with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s Voluntary Certification Program for contractors. Cost is $55 and includes lunch and snacks. Contact Colin Holme at the LEA at 647-8580 with any questions and to register.

Eggs and Issues

Our local chamber of commerce serves the 11 towns that comprise the Lakes Region, offering marketing support, advertising, community outreach and “After Hours” events for members to socialize and network. Now, chamber Director Sue Mercer and board members are throwing the early birds a party, too.

Join Mercer and other members for the first annual Chamber Insight Breakfast on Thursday, April 9, at 7:30 a.m. at the Casco Community Center. The keynote speaker will be Christopher Fogg, CEO of the Maine Tourism Association. Fogg’s presentation will focus on the top five ways Lakes Region business can grow in the upcoming 2015 season. The event is sponsored by the Noble House Inn, and a breakfast buffet will be served by Merced’s on Brandy Pond. Reservations are required, and tickets are $20 and available at the Chamber office on Rt. 302, next to Hannaford. Call Ree Gonzales at 647-3472 to reserve your spot. I’m definitely not an early bird, but I’ll be there, so please have some coffee waiting for me!

Turn the Page

Encouraging children to love reading at an early age is essential to their vocabulary development, learning skills and imagination. Bridgton Hospital is helping make books accessible to everyone by hosting a sale for readers of all ages.

Join them for the biannual Books Are Fun fundraiser on Wednesday, April 8, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Thursday, April 9, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the main lobby. There will be books of all kinds, stationery, music, gifts and more, and a percentage of proceeds will benefit the Employee Emergency Assistance Fund, which gives financial support to hospital staff experiencing financial hardship. Call the BH Development office at 647-6055 for more information.

Cake for Kids’ Sake

Candy isn’t just for children; I’m sure all of us have surreptitiously swiped a peep or two on Easter Sunday. Adults deserve sweets, too, and what’s better than home-baked pies that help a great cause?

Join local bakers at Rite Aid in downtown Bridgton on Easter weekend for a huge bake sale. On Saturday and Sunday, April 4 and 5, tables will be laden with all sorts of irresistible treats, with all proceeds going to the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital and the Children’s Miracle Network.

Give Blood

Few things are more vital to saving lives than a strong supply of healthy blood. Unfortunately, national stockpiles are always critically low, and keeping them replenished is essential. Our local Freemasons are doing their part by hosting their annual Red Cross Blood Drive.

Please stop by the Masonic Hall on Route 117 (Harrison Road) on Tuesday, April 7, from 1-7 p.m. to donate. There will be snacks and beverages for donors, as well as endless gratitude. Call 1-800-Red-Cross to schedule an appointment.

Turning the Page

Although I am probably best known as the owner of the Depot Street Tap House, I consider myself a writer first and foremost. After 10 years as a columnist for Current Publishing, seven of which have been with the Lakes Region Weekly, I am sad to be putting down my pen.

I have loved writing “Inside Bridgton” but just don’t have time to give it my whole heart anymore, and I feel it is time for a fresh voice and perspective. My final column will be on April 17, and I am looking for a replacement. If you or someone you know is interested in the job, please let me know. It is a fun assignment, and you’ll have mostly free rein over the content.

You’ll need to be a good writer, dependable with a deadline and able to wax enthusiastic about craft fairs, local elections and church suppers among many other happenings. The column runs every other week, and your name and photo will accompany it, so be prepared to be stopped at the grocery store, restaurants, strolling through town…people love to offer (generally) friendly advice on all things Bridgton-related. Please call or email me or contact my editor John Balentine at [email protected] Thanks for your interest.

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