February: Maine Winter Happenings

February 2016 – It may be the middle of winter, but this is when many Mainers are outdoors and enjoying the season, skating on a local pond or taking the family ice fishing. Spring may seem far off, but there are a host of winter farmers’ markets that continue to offer produce and goods. Early March brings the much anticipated Maine Restaurant Week to a state that has become synonymous with great food. For those looking for indoor activities, many of Maine’s mills have been restored and repurposed, becoming destinations for those looking for art galleries, shops and restaurants.

For writers, editors and bloggers looking for short-lead news, you’ll find immediate details under Happening Now. Those in search of longer lead news, scroll down to the Looking Ahead section.

Happening Now in Maine

Ice Fishing Ice fishing season, which some Mainers have been known to call “hardwater season,” is when Maine’s thousands of lakes take on a new life. This is when ice fishing huts are hauled onto the lakes and families often spend a day together on the ice.

To get a taste of this winter activity that goes back more than a century, plan to spend some time in Maine’s Lakes and Mountains region, the Kennebec Valley, the Highlands or Aroostook County, which all offer lodging options after a long day on the ice. Many small communities host ice fishing derbies, such as the Hooked on Fishing Kids Derby at Range Pond State Park in Poland on March 5. The event is a terrific way to introduce youngsters to the sport. Farmers's markets

The state might be knee deep in winter but farmers’ markets continue throughout the season, when many markets relocate indoors. The Brunswick Winter Market runs every Saturday from 9:00 am-12:30 pm, with more than three dozen vendors in the Fort Andross Mill Complex.

The Portland Winter Farmers’ Market is also every Saturday, from 9:00 am-1:00 pm at 84 Cove Street. Thanks to dozens of farm vendors, live music and food trucks, it give visitors a chance to really experience the dynamic Portland food scene even in the midst of winter.

Up in Oxford County, the Norway Farmers’ Market runs every Saturday from 10:00 am-2:00 pm in the First Universalist Church with a cornucopia of produce, meats, dairy, baked goods and artisan crafts. Look for more farmers’ markets on the Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets website.

Come winter, many of Maine’s frozen lakes and ponds begin to resemble a Currier & Ives print as skaters take to the ice. Some skaters start pick-up hockey games while others simply enjoy one of winter’s oldest pleasures. On a really cold day, there might be a bonfire along the shore.

One benefit of the thinner-than-usual snow cover this year is that skating ponds have clear ice that hasn’t been crusted over with snow. Besides the large number of ponds that are ideal for skating, there are ice rinks throughout the state. The town of Brunswick has three outdoor ice rinks, including the Mall Ice Skating Rink at the town center. The town of Bethel, near Sunday River, floods its tennis court for outdoor skating while the Sugarloaf Outdoor Center has an NHL sized rink and offers music and lights at night. Go to Visit Maine for more information.

Looking Ahead

The annual Maine Restaurant Week is when the state’s best chefs get to shine and the public gets to dine at bargain prices. Running from March 1 to 12 this year, participating restaurants are offering multi-course meals at fixed prices, ranging from $25, $35, $45 and $55 per person, depending on the establishment.

Several hotels, including the Portland Harbor Hotel, The Brunswick Hotel and Tavern, and the Camden Harbor Inn are offering lodging specials to pair with dining week. This year, participating restaurants can be found in Portland, South Portland, Cape Elizabeth, Camden, Rockland, Lewiston, Bangor, Kennebunk and other towns around the state.

For more information, visit Maine Restaurant Week.

Milling around MaineMills have long been a feature of many Maine towns and cities, but while few may be producing goods any longer, some of these impressive buildings have been repurposed. Given their period architecture, large windows, high ceilings and loft-like spaces, they’re ideal for transformation. The fact that many are waterside adds to their charms.

In Biddeford, the North Dam Mill on the Pepperell Mill Campus offer dining and shopping. Artists’ studios include the Saco River Dyehouse, a resource for the fiber community. Mill 67 in Sanford is a popular and vast restaurant in a former textile mill from 1867 that was restored and reopened in 2013.

The city of Westbrook is home to the Dana Warp Mill, which has many artist studios including that of graphic designer Erin Flett. It’s also home to the Bakery Photo Collective, which holds lectures, exhibits and the annual holiday “Photo a Go Go” photo art sale. Up in Brunswick, Fort Andross is known for its large indoor flea market, yoga studio, artists’ studios and restaurants that include the Frontier Café, which offers films and live music.

Skowhegan has transformed the Somerset Grist Mill, the former county jail, into a lively space with a farmers’ market, restaurant, and shops while Lewiston’s Bates Mill Complex is anchored by Baxter Brewing, along with restaurants, the Museum L-A and an exhibition space that is currently hosting a Bates Museum of Art exhibit. The Mill at Dover Foxcroft is a historic mill complex that was renovated in 2015 into a mixed-use building with residences, office space, a cafe and a boutique inn.