We returned to Eastport, Maine, in late August, nearly three years after our first visit, when we had become smitten with the tiny town of 1,300 people. Eastport is officially a city, which may be technically correct, but that term sheds the sense of charm and intimacy that the term town bears, at least to my ear. And indeed, Eastport is charming and intimate. On the other hand, the word city seems to suit when you consider the many ways Eastport “punches above its weight,” as my husband Jim often remarks.
We have written about how much is happening in Eastport, and how everyone—yes, nearly everyone—pitches in to make it happen. For instance, after we attended a performance of The Glass Menagerie in 2013, we realized that the ticket taker was also the editor and publisher of the paper, the Quoddy Tides, and that the stage manager Jenie Smith was, by day, the barista at Dastardly Dick’s coffee shop. That’s not the half of it; we learned on this latest trip that the barista is also the nephrologist at the town’s clinic. And that she and her husband, Peter, the owners of Dastardly Dick’s, had just added their longtime dream, a dog kennel, to their portfolio of businesses.
This weekend is the 11th season of the highly-anticipated Pirate Festival. Eastport boasts a long list of celebrations, like the Salmon and Seafood Festival and New Year’s Eve Maple Leaf and Sardine drop. Eastport is counting on their festivals a lot this year, hoping to make up for some of the changes in tourism caused by a few unusual events: 16 feet of snow and the town’s municipal pier collapse during the winter of 2014-2015. The effects spilled over into a slowdown in cruise ship stops and some tourist activities.
More shops have opened up along Water Street since our last visit: one for pet supplies, a bakery, an ice cream shop, a restaurant, a salt shop, and more galleries. The hardware store, which has been in the same family for several generations, has a beautiful new front. The Commons, a mixed-use building including condo rentals with an incomparable view of Campobello Island (we stayed there; book early!) and local artisanry, is bustling. They also rent to Eat Local Eastport Coop, a produce and deli next door that has added local beer, even one called Atlantic, as Jim will attest.