Five hours of interviews, two miles of city blocks, 20 Mainers and the verdict was clear: most Mainers love winter.

In an admittedly unscientific sampling for a very informal survey that took place on a frigid day in Portland last week, the majority of Mainers stopped randomly on the street and asked how they feel about winter gushed about it. (Good thing since they live in a state where it lasts almost half the year.)

Their reasons were varied and passionate, from the fact they prefer cold winters to humid summers, to their feelings that hard winters unite us, make us appreciate the quiet in the woods, and give us excuses to throw dinner parties.

We defined Mainers expansively. We included Scarborough native Jennilee Gervais, even though she left Maine for Texas last year after 35 years. Why? Because Gervais loathes winter. But as a native Mainer and solid member of the hater camp, Gervais insisted she be counted. We also talked with a young Congolese woman new to Maine. (Average high temperature in January in Kinshasa, the capital? A balmy 85 degrees.)

Our final tally gave Lovers of Maine Winters a significant edge over the Haters – 13 to 7. So despite all the gripes we hear during the mad rush that precedes every snowstorm, maybe we are, as a state, mostly a winter-loving people. Are those who hate winter a minority, albeit a vocal one?

One thing is certain, at least from our small sampling. Lovers of winter are an eclectic, enthusiastic tribe, and like the season or loathe it, all Mainers must find a way to cope. Here’s what they said:

The Haters

Nadine Abibi, Portland: Abibi has been in Maine just five months – she emigrated from the Congo – and said her first winter is proving a challenge. She tries to take it in stride, she said, smiling while trying to explain in broken English, but can it be winter will last another three months?

Her friend, Peter Riley, confirmed Abibi’s aversion to any temperatures that dip below 30 degrees. “She’s smiling to be polite,” Riley said.

Katie Ayer, Auburn: Though Ayer, 25, has spent her whole life in Maine, she thinks winter is “disgusting.” She doesn’t like the short days and long, dark nights, and is no fan of snow, either. When the snow is dirty, it’s not even pretty, she pointed out.

But Ayer’s biggest reason for despising Maine winters? She slipped on the ice three years ago when she was five months pregnant. Mother and baby boy were fine, but the fall cemented her antipathy.

Fair enough.

John Devoe, Buckfield: Devoe, a native Mainer, works outside in the winter because he can make a good living in construction. But the cold is brutal. He learned to do drywall so he could get inside jobs. But he goes where the work is, and sometimes that’s outside when it’s 15 degrees.

“I don’t like being cold,” said Devoe, 50. “I’ve worked outside for 16 years. I put on layers. I have on 10 more pounds of clothes right now.

“My friends ice fish and go snowmobiling. I don’t care. I don’t like the cold.”

The Lovers

Rick Porter, Portland: Porter grew up in Massachusetts but spent summers on Peaks Island. At 19 he moved to Maine. He now has two sons he’s proud to call Mainers who followed him into lobstering.

When Porter first moved here he hunted, fished, trapped and recreated outside year round. He still does. Come winter, Porter is working on the wharf, plowing or ice fishing.

“When it’s 17 out, lobstermen are happy because the deck doesn’t freeze,” he said. “It’s all perspective.”

Allison Shutts, Portland: Shutts grew up in Virginia and considers herself more of an urban person than an outdoor one. She doesn’t participate in winter sports. Nonetheless she loves winter in Maine. She said it’s an excuse to see more plays, to research vacations and hold small dinner parties. After 29 years here, Shutts recently retired and is taking a trip to subtropical Cuba next month. But she’s not afraid to stay in Maine all winter.

“I always enjoyed being more of a New Englander than a Southern wimp.”

Lizz Lucas, Augusta: When we ran into Lucas she wore a wool coat that hung open. In fact, she likes to embrace the cold.

“I don’t own a coat,” Lucas said. “I borrow them. I just wear sweatshirts in winter most of the time.”

Lucas, a native Mainer who grew up in Monmouth, said Maine winters are practically a part of her personality.

“I am a very passionate person and the cold cools me down (emotionally),” said Lucas, 20. “The cold in Maine complements me; it balances me.”

Cameron Dufty, New Gloucester: Dufty moved to Maine three years ago from Idaho, where she said the winters are easier, shorter and warmer. But when asked how she likes Maine winters, Dufty burst out laughing. She could, possibly, have more love for our colder months than anyone else.

“It honestly makes me feel a part of a community because everyone goes through it together,” she said. “It brings people together.”

Jessica Foley, Portland: Foley loves to bird, Nordic ski and snowshoe, and she favors the quiet the snow brings to the forest.

“When I’m birding in the spring, it’s loud like a party,” she said. “But in winter you can hear more.”

A painter, Foley actually does plein air painting even in winter, albeit on milder days.

Foley, a New Hampshire native, loves winter so much, she studied it. Her undergraduate project at Sterling College in Vermont was titled: “The Representation of Winter in Northern New England Culture.”

“You asked the right person,” Foley said.

Deirdre Fleming can be reached at 791-6452 or at:

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Twitter: FlemingPph