It is hard to tear yourself away from the eye-popping water and mountain views of the Rangeley Lakes Region. That’s understandable. But, to really understand and appreciate this Maine treasure take some time to explore the various museums, art galleries and local town gathering places. Visit an old-time bowling alley named after the iconic moose or learn about logging or steam trains at a specialized museum. Enjoy music and sweet treats at a festival dedicated to the almighty, if rather smallish, blueberry. History, food, fun and entertainment, it’s all here.
Perhaps it’s been a while since you’ve rolled a bowling ball down a lane or dropped a few quarters in a pin-ball machine. The appropriately named Moose Alley on Main St. gives you the chance to do both. Ten lanes with electronic scoring are open daily and ready for the challenge. The onsite arcade offers the change for players of all ages to win prizes. A billiards room offers pool, shuffleboard and darts. The Snack Bar serves up tasty treats from noon until close. On Friday and Saturday enjoy live music onsite. A party room is available for birthday celebrations and other private events.
Immerse yourself in the history of the Rangeley Lakes Region with a visit to its diverse museums. The Rangeley Outdoor Sporting Heritage Museum, located in Oquossoc, looks a bit like a taxidermist’s shop. Many of the specimens were created by Herb Welch, a local teacher, wildlife artist and the “go to” man whenever you wanted a trophy fish mounted. Find memorabilia from Cornelia “Fly Rod” Crosby, the first person to get a Maine Registered Guide license, all the more incredible because in that day and age women were considered more sedate. A nod is also given to Carrie Stevens known for her self-made ties and the landing of a 6 pound 13 ounce trout in 1924. A section is also devoted to Ed Grant a local guide and fisherman from the latter part of the 1800s who had no trouble spinning a yarn or two. Much of the museum is devoted to the brook trout that helped put Rangeley on the map.
The Rangeley Lakes Logging Museum takes you back to when plaid-shirted lumberjacks wielded axes and saws to bring down some of the largest trees in the North Atlantic Region. The museum was founded by logger Rodney Richard back in 1979 and features not only vintage logging equipment but prints from Alden Grant, a well known local painter. Another not to be missed Rangeley museum is actually a church. Built of spruce logs the aptly named Union Log Church dates back to 1916. The vintage property built by Leon Wright and Anson Hayford is on the National Register of Historic Places. During July and August Sunday services are held each week at 9 a.m.
The Wilhelm Reich Museum covers 175 acres and is both a science and historical museum. It honors the work of Wilhelm Reich, a local physician and scientist involved in energy studies. The museum sits in Orgonon, the former research center and home of this enigmatic man. The Rangeley Lakes Historical Society sits in a vintage Revival style home built in 1905 that just happens to be on the National Register of Historic Places. Its archives include photos, artifacts and records of the various industries, sports and people that helped make the Rangeley Lake Region what it is today.
In the town of Kingfield the Stanley Museum pays tribute to the Stanley brothers, creators of the Stanley Steamer, an automobile that was decidedly brilliant but never made it into mainstream living. This museum sits in the Stanley Schoolhouse, built in the Georgian Period. The Kingfield Historical Society also has local memorabilia covering everything from the Narrow Gauge Railroad to William King, a noted Maine Governor. The Ski Museum of Maine, also in Kingfield, features vintage ski gear and other snow related items, much of them locally made.
Head to Stratton and discover the Dead River Area Historical Society’s museum sitting on Route 27. It houses a collection of logging tools, vintage furniture and features a completely reassembled old-time schoolroom. Railroad buffs head for the Sandy River & Rangeley Lakes Railroad Museum in Phillips. Get an up-close look at some of these steam powered workhorses from the past, some restored and still puffing away.
Blueberry jams, syrups, pies and muffins are just some of the treats waiting for you at the Blueberry Festival each August. Held in Lakeside Park on Main Street, guests are welcome to sample local treats and take home homemade foods and crafts. Let the kids visit their own entertainment section at this lakeside locale. Celebrate the talent of local artists at the Art in August Celebration hosted by the Rangeley Friends of the Arts. The organization also hosts other gathering such as the Music from the Lake Concert held at Loon Lodge at Rangeley Lake in July. Celtic music concerts are regularly held at the Lakeside Theatre as is a summer musical production. A Bluegrass Music Concert is held every July at the Logging Museum on Route 16 and it includes a craft show. Make sure you do your research online, for tickets to these events on websites such as ABC tickets, which will give you the best price and up to date information.
Saddleback Mountain hosts its own Fall Festival each September with music, food, crafts and a decidedly messy pie eating contest. The RFA Summer Diva Show in mid-August is presented by Rangeley Friends of the Arts. Held at the Saddleback Base Lodge, it is three days of dancing, singing, comedic routines and celebrity impersonations. The Sugarloaf Ski Resort also offers plenty of live music to enjoy especially at their onsite restaurant, The Rack.
The Rangeley Region Guides & Sportsmen’s Association hosts their Strawberry Festival each July in Oquossoc Park. In addition to various treats made with the berries, the event includes an Arts and Craft Show and an interesting and fun Yard Sale. That same organization hosts the Outdoor Sporting Heritage Day celebration each August. The focus is on the hunting and fishing traditions of Maine. Events include a fly-casting competition, presentations by Maine Guides, hands-on exhibits and special activities for the kids. Sample foods created using local game and fish.
The town of Oquossoc has its own celebration each August, Oquossoc Day. Fun for the whole family, this all-day event features an Art and Antique show, the Little Wooden Boat Show and both a canoe and sail boat race. Airplane buffs aren’t left out and neither are your four legged family members. The event includes a dog show and the Doggie Garden Parade.
Apples are the fruit of choice at the Annual Apple Festival, sponsored by the Rangeley Lakes Logging Museum each October. Held at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Rangeley, it features an old time beef stew luncheon, craft fair and of course apples made into every conceivable treat.
Every summer the Rangeley Health and Wellness Center hosts concerts featuring big name artists to benefit that center. Gregg Allman is one artist scheduled to appear in the July 2013 event. Each June, the Kingfield POPS concert attracts musicians and music lovers from the Maine area and beyond. Also in June a Free Arts Festival is held in downtown Kingston featuring exhibits, food and live music.
The Rangeley Public Library, located downtown, hosts its own collection of events. Learn about life on the Korean Peninsula, explore the wilds of Patagonia or delve into the science of climate change. Hear tales from famous explorers like Ed Webster who climbed Mount Everest or get a close-up look at the work of local artist George Adams. Book & Bake sales and Children’s Concerts are all part of the fun. Independence Day in Rangeley means a lakeside celebration complete with parade, food, crafts, a duck race and of course, fireworks.
If you’re visiting during December take in a Christmas Concert at the Church of The Good Shepherd or enjoy breakfast with Santa at the Wilhelm Reich Museum. Mountain Holly Days in mid-December brings out vendors offering Christmas specials. Welcome the New Year at Saddleback Mountain with a dazzling fire display. You’ll probably be able to get in some skiing, but that’s another story.
Maine’s Rangeley Lakes Region & Franklin County Directory Listings: