The paint crews have been out along the storefronts in downtown Bar Harbor – a sign that the summer season is rapidly approaching.
Many, but not all, businesses in the village board up their windows in the winter and clean out their inventory, while some just shut down for a few weeks or a month so the proprietors can scrub everything clean and recharge themselves before the annual influx of tourists begins, usually around Memorial Day. Some of the seasonal shops have already re-opened. [A list of member businesses of the Bar Harbor Merchants’ Association, which helps to promote Bar Harbor as a year-round service center can be found here].
Another sign of the summer season is the first cruise ship arrival, which usually manifests with the Holland America cruise ship Maasdam dropping anchor in Frenchman Bay. Maasdam’s visit on Thursday, May 3, is expected to be the first of 120 visits scheduled for 2012. This year, a new local cruise ship committee has formed to help greet cruise ship passengers as they arrive.
Bar Harbor’s ‘spring opening’ typically is accompanied by some changes from the prior year – some new businesses open, others get new owners or move to new locations, and others might call it quits. Aside from the ongoing construction of a multi-million dollar Ocean Properties hotel on West Street, which is supposed to open this summer, the only significant difference in downtown Bar Harbor this spring that I can think of is that the Criterion Theater is not going to open. The 80 year-old theater closed last summer after stumbling through several years of financial difficulties.
I always like this time of year because of the comfort, familiarity and activity the good weather brings. Some of my favorite haunts re-open, faces I haven’t seen for months reappear, facades get repainted and flower pots replanted. A stroll around town with a cup of coffee or a dish of ice cream usually yields several sidewalk chats and maybe a news tip or two. And if the sun is out, you can see the mountains of Acadia National Park in one direction and the islands of Frenchman Bay in another.