Do you think about how the holidays were celebrated when you were a child? Do you remember them fondly? I do. And I want my child to remember them that way too.
I know there’s plenty to do in Pennsylvania over the Fourth of July, but this year we went north to Maine. And we had a wonderful time celebrating Independence Day and family. For anyone thinking about where to take their kids or looking for a place where things are still family-oriented and slow paced, Frye Island is the perfect spot.
My family has been going to Maine during the summer for more than 30 years. And for the last 16-plus years, they have called Frye Island home in the summer.
Frye Island is a small island in the middle of Sebago Lake, which is about an hour northwest of Portland, Maine. The island has no paved roads, a small general store, marina, community center, ballfields and 10 public beaches. The only way on and off the island is via ferry from the mainland. It’s my parent’s place of refuge, relaxation and re-charging.
Over the past several years we have had some major incidents in our family, like a serious health scare, the birth of the first grandchild and my brother being deployed to Iraq. So it’s been very hard to gather everyone together for an extended summer weekend. This year was the first time in recent memory that we were all together in Maine. It was a weekend that I will hold close to my heart.
We had a really old-fashioned Fourth of July celebration. Part of it was the way Frye Island celebrates and part of it was my family all being together. For starters, on the Saturday of Fourth of July weekend, Frye Island holds a golf cart parade. Insane? Yes. Fun? Absolutely. Since the main mode of transportation around the island is by golf cart, almost everyone has one. And every year people decorate them for Fourth of July. All the golf carts gather at the community center and a retired Navy captain, in his khakis and with sword at side, gets everyone in line and starts the parade.
This was the first year that we participated in the golf cart parade. Decorating the golf cart involved many trips to craft stores, Christmas Tree Shoppe and various dollar stores. We chose to be “sparkly” red, white and blue. There were over 100 other golf carts in the parade. Someone managed to find an enormous inflatable birthday cake that they rigged to their golf cart that said Happy Birthday America. The parade route follows the contours of the island, and many people who aren’t participating watch in their lawn chairs. A lot of people in the golf carts throw treats out to the kids who are watching. So simple, so fun.
On Saturday afternoon the town holds track and field events for the kids. There is a community ball field on the island, and during the summer, the recreation department organizes events for the kids. Over Fourth of July weekend they have a competition. My daughter was too small to participate, but it looked like the kids were having a blast. The parents looked like they were enjoying themselves too. It’s nice to see people relaxed and laughing. Have you ever really watched people during the daily drudge? What a change.
On Saturday evening the Town of Frye Island hosts fireworks over the lake. My little munchkin didn’t make it to the fireworks, but we watched from the porch. The majority of islanders are out on their boats watching. But a good percentage head down to one of the many beaches to watch. The fireworks were pretty impressive for such a little town.
Sunday morning the town organizes a road walk/race. They have a 1-mile run, 1-mile walk, 5-mile walk and 5-mile run. In an effort to be healthy, I have been running, and all summer I thought this was a 5K race. Wrong. 5-mile race. I ran for the first time, and although it was challenging, I finished. The race encourages families to run and walk together, and it was so fun to see the kids running across the finish line with their parents. I kept wondering if Addie would be old enough next summer to do the one mile.
On Sunday afternoon we had a lobster bake. My brother brought the lobsters over early Sunday morning, and we had an old-fashioned bake. Steamers, corn, little red potatoes. My father and I made ice cream while my daughter napped. No, we didn’t have an electric machine. We used the one we used when I was a kid, which meant a lot more cranking then I remember, but the taste of homemade ice cream was well worth it. Plus, I figured with all that cranking I probably zeroed out the calories. :) It was my mom’s birthday so we celebrated with a whoopee pie cake from Two Fat Cats in Portland. Yum! After finding Two Fat Cats a few summers ago, I now have a serious addiction to their whoopee pies, especially the pumpkin in the fall.
Monday was a day off the island. My brother had to leave to go back to work. My mom needed to get some things in Portland, and I needed groceries for the upcoming week. We tooled around Portland all day. Together.
I know the island isn’t for everyone. But I know so many of you think about family vacations and worry about expense and travel costs. Going to Frye Island is relatively inexpensive. House rentals are plentiful. The costs once you’re on the island run as high as $2 for an ice cream cone. Ferry tickets run about $15. But you have a kitchen, grill, beach, rec center, playground, pool and 10 beaches. I can’t express what a perfect family spot this is, for quality family vacations. Time, recreation that doesn’t involve electronics and a chance to re-charge the batteries.
I love Frye Island. As much as a place can be part of you, the island is part of me. It’s part of every person in the family. Everyone comes for their own reasons, but it brings us all together. And when we’re there we do everything slowly, enjoying our time and the company.