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Ray Routhier

Portland Press Herald staff writer Ray Routhier will try anything. Once. During 20 years at the Press Herald he’s been equally attracted to stories that are unusually quirky and seemingly mundane. He’s taken rides on garbage trucks, sought out the mother of two rock stars, dug clams, raked blueberries, and spent time with the family of bedridden man who finds strength in music. Nothing too dangerous mind you, just adventurous enough to find the stories of real Mainers doing real cool things.

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Posted: June 28, 2017

Get as American as you can on Independence Day in Maine

Written by: Ray Routhier

How American can one be here in Maine, on the Fourth of July?

Well, as American as apple pie, of course. And, to paraphrase the old Chevy TV ad from the ’70s, as American as baseball, hot dogs and Chevrolet, too.

Thinking about what it means to be an American can include some heavy, thoughtful soul searching. But it can also be fun, and that’s what we’re going for.

This Fourth of July is a good time to celebrate America by experiencing, and tasting, some of the iconic pop-culture symbols and treats associated with our great nation. Besides downing a delicious slice of apple pie or cheering at a baseball game, when’s the last time you had a good hot dog or saw noble bald eagles or heard the roar of engines from American muscle cars? As Independence Day approaches, here are some ideas on how everyone can complete to their own satisfaction the sentence, “As American as … ”

Staff photo by Jill Brady

Staff photo by Jill Brady

BITE A DOG

The hot dog is the American equalizer. One of the great stories about President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was when he served hot dogs to King George VI of England, and the two countries have been allies ever since. In Maine, several towns boast their own go-to spot for hot dogs. We’ve got Wasses, a legendary hot dog stand on Main Street in Rockland. Among the famous summer folks seen standing in line there: Andrew Wyeth, one of America’s greatest painters. Then there’s Flo’s Hot Dogs, in a little red shack on Route 1 in York. The sign says they serve “the most famous hot dogs with hot sauce on Route 1 from Maine to Key West, Florida.” Hard to top that. You can also buy Flo’s Famous Secret Hot Dog Relish online at floshotdogs.com. And folks in Brunswick swear the best dog is at Danny’s Dogs, a little stand on the green on Maine Street. Hallowell has Bolley’s Famous Franks, and Simone’s Hot Dog Stand in Lewiston is favorite stop of Maine politicians on the campaign trail.

Staff Photo by Fred J. Field

Staff Photo by Fred J. Field

THE NOBLEST OF BIRDS

The state Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife says there are more than 500 pairs of nesting bald eagles in the state. It’s always a thrill to see one circling overhead. Unfortunately, there are more sightings in the winter than summer most years. People have spotted them in recent years near landfills in both Augusta and Bath. Other places where people have seen eagles most of the year are near Cadillac Mountain on Mount Desert Island or Bradbury Mountain State Park in Pownal. Sometimes they’re seen flying over Interstate 295 between Portland and Brunswick. But one place you can see one up close is at the Maine Wildlife Park off Route 26 in Gray. The park is home to all sort of animals that are recovering from injury or need some help. This year, a bald eagle is listed among their inhabitants. Find info on Facebook: Maine Wildlife Park.

Staff photo by Carl D. Walsh

Staff photo by Carl D. Walsh

ROCKETS’ RED GLARE

It’s right there in the national anthem, “bombs bursting in air” and rockets with a reddish glare lighting up the night sky. Fireworks in all their bright glory are as American as, well, the Fourth of July. They weren’t always legal in Maine, and we’d have to sneak into other less seemly parts of America to buy them, like, say, New Hampshire.

But now there’s all kinds of places to go for some pop and flash, like Phantom Fireworks on Cabela’s Boulevard in Scarborough, or the half-dozen Pyro City stores scattered across the state, including one in Windham. But for a truly American experience, why not combine fireworks shopping with a visit to a giant bargain store whose owner does obnoxious TV ads? Yes, Big Al’s Fireworks Outlet on Route 1 in Wiscasset is right next to Big Al’s Odd Lot Outlet. What’s more American than getting knitting needles, placemats, back scratchers and a new ball cap all in one place?

Staff photo by Joel Page

Staff photo by Joel Page

THE OLD BALL GAME

Abner Doubleday may or may not have invented baseball. Nobody really knows. But one thing we do know is that Maine’s own Portland Sea Dogs have pretty much perfected the experience of taking the family out to the ballpark. The Sea Dogs, a minor-league affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, will be home at Hadlock Field in Portland on July 4. They’ve got a 6 p.m. game against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. After the game, fireworks will boom to the beat of patriotic music on the loudspeakers.

During the game, you can enjoy other iconic American treats like hot dogs, ice cream and beer. If you’ve never tried a Sea Dog Biscuit – Shain’s of Maine ice cream between two chocolate chip cookies the size of a child’s head – you are missing out on one of the great privileges of being American. Tickets and info at seadogs.com.

L Barnwell/Shutterstock.com

L Barnwell/Shutterstock.com

THE BOSS KNOWS

How do we know cars are synonymous with American culture? Because Bruce Springsteen sings about them, that’s how. “Cadillac Ranch” and “Thunder Road” aside, there’s also the fact that American muscle cars appear in iconic films like “Grease” and “American Graffiti.”

One place to go on Fourth of July weekend for an impressive car experience is the Owls Head Transportation Museum, near Rockland. Its collection of some 50 automobiles includes a 1902 Oldsmobile, a 1911 Cadillac, a Ford Model T, a couple of 1920s “woody” wagons, like the Beach Boys sing about, and a 1957 Thunderbird. For info go to owlshead.org.

Another car haven Mainers might not know about is at the Boothbay Railway Village. Known for its railway and charming village, it also has a collection of more than 60 antique autos, including a few iconic American brands like Chevy, Ford, Lincoln and Pontiac. Learn more at railwayvillage.org.

Staff Photo by John Patriquin

Staff Photo by John Patriquin

APPLE OF YOUR PIE

Sure, here in Maine, blueberry rules when it comes to pie. But often in the places you find the official state dessert, there are other pie varieties, especially in Maine’s many diners – another symbol of Americana. They’ll be all over the place, from orchards to agricultural fairs, in the fall, but where can you find a slice of America’s iconic dessert, even when it’s out of season? Moody’s Diner in Waldoboro sells it by the slice or a la mode, along with 10 other varieties. If you really want to make an event of it, head to Helen’s Restaurant on Main Street in Machias, where apple is among the many pies and desserts made fresh daily. That’s right, you can have a slice of apple pie at a diner counter on Main Street. It doesn’t get much more American than that.

Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers contributed to this report.

WHERE TO SEE FIREWORKS ON THE FOURTH (AND BEFORE)

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