Subversive summer

An alternative tourist guide to Maine
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  June 18, 2014

Whether you live in Maine or are visiting, as a reader of the Portland Phoenix you are not the typical lobster-overeating, LL Bean-over-shopping, sunburn-seeking summer sybarite. Phoenix readers want to experience unprocessed Maine: to enjoy and learn about a side of the state that the stock Maine publications won’t show because they haven’t figured out how to sell ads for it. So here are some different views of summertime Maine — seen through my personal political lens.


What you might see at a Maine pot festival. Photo by Roger Leisner.

Pot festivals
There’s always a new flock of stoned hippies dancing half-naked in the rain. There are more festivals in the backwoods this summer and fall than you could survive: nine, with additional ones possible. Medical weed is legal. If you haven’t found a doctor who’ll write you a prescription for your bad back, you haven’t tried. But whether you have a medical card or not, the cops leave these events alone.

Coming right up, June 20-22: Freedom Fest at Freedom Field in — where else? — a town named Harmony, sponsored by Maine Vocals, the longtime pro-pot group ( The same weekend there’s Harry’s Hoe Down, in Starks ( These events are put on by competing festival organizations. Maine Vocals events are more “hard core,” says one festival connoisseur. Harry’s Hill weekends are more “political” (à la Occupy), kid-oriented, and have less drinking. Both feature a wide assortment of local bands; tickets, which may permit camping, range from $10 a day to $70 a weekend. The politics of them all? What else — freedom.

Reggae cruises
For the full-libertarian approach to a Maine summer, the Reggae Cruise out of Boothbay Harbor, with the Dani Tribesman Band, 6-9 pm every Sunday through September 7, would be a “natural” way to end a pot-festival weekend — or any weekend.
Tickets are $30; advance purchase required. You must be 21, and they’re strict about IDs — two needed for outta-staters. No alcohol may be taken on board; there’s a bar. The Tribesmen have been playing reggae since 1985. For information and reservations: Cap’n Fish’s Cruises, 207.633.3244, 800.636.3244, or

And if this is your scene, hop aboard a Casco Bay Lines ferry for Reggae Sunday on Peaks Island, every Sunday into September. Music starts at 1 pm, from the likes of El Grande, Stream, and Royal Hammer. And mark your calendars for the first-ever Portland Reggae Fest, on the Maine State Pier, on August 10 (

Political tour of beautiful, sick Augusta
Beautiful and sick usually don’t go together. But “Disgusta,” as our state capital is called by snotty Portlanders, is both physically beautiful, and politically, mentally disturbed — like Washington, DC, but with far fewer inhabitants (pop. 19,000) and almost no tourists. The magnificent Kennebec River runs through the middle of the city, and high hills rise up in the middle of it — on top of which is America’s most convenient airport.

Begin your tour on the riverbank at Fort Western, the country’s oldest wooden fort, from which Benedict Arnold in 1775 launched his doomed attack on Quebec. Hike down the Greenway trail to the derelict 1820s Kennebec Arsenal compound, one of the nation’s most beautiful and neglected National Historic Landmarks, perched high above the river. The neglect results from the state turning the property over to a developer who never developed it — a typical blind submissiveness of government to business interests.

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    Prisons, pot festivals, and Orgonon: Here are some different views of summertime Maine — seen through my personal political lens.
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 See all articles by: LANCE TAPLEY