Hundreds of lighthouse aficionados from around the United States and Canada converged on the communities of Cutler and Lubec Maine and Campobello Island, NB, Canada this past August 8-10 for the first ever International “Lights Across the Border” Lighthouse Challenge.
The Friends of Little River Lighthouse, West Quoddy Lighthouse Keeper’s Association and Friends of Head Harbour Lighthouse, the groups that hosted the Challenge, all rated the event a total success, “beyond our wildest dreams,” said Kathleen Finnegan one of the committee members.
The ‘Challenge’ was for the participants to visit and view the areas five lighthouses some that are very difficult to get to, and receive a certificate of completion at the end of the event. Throughout the day, at the various locations, the groups were selling lighthouse memorabilia to raise money for their respective lighthouses and food vendors reported brisk sales.
The event was also a boost to the area’s tourism economy as local motels and B & B’s were filled to capacity. West Quoddy Gifts in Lubec reported it was the best single day of sales that they have had since they opened for business 18 years ago. At one point, during the Sunday morning breakfast crowd at the Bluebird Restaurant in Machias, all you could hear was the talk of lighthouses. In Cutler, 90-year-old local resident Josephine Corbett said, “This is just like the old days, when Cutler was alive and the town was filled with people for events. It is so exciting and nice to see this happening again.”
In Cutler, various vendors were set up in tents selling lighthouse related items and nearly 500 people were ferried out to the island home of the now restored Little River Lighthouse. Most of the attendees had never visited the island before. It was a grand day for people like 81-year old Hal Biering, who spent the past five years working on the restoration of the lighthouse. As he piloted one of the five boats that made trips back and forth to the island, he talked to everyone about the long and grueling restoration project that had taken place on the island. Although he didn’t mention it to anyone, the brand new boat he was piloting had been launched just one day before the event and been donated by Biering to the Friends of Little River Lighthouse. Another boat captain was Mac McCullough of Hampden, Maine who was piloting a large boat that he had donated to the Friends group earlier this year. Cutler volunteers Stephen Cates helped with his lobster boat and local tour boat operator Andy Patterson of Bold Coast Charters also ferried people.
Helping people get off the boats on the island at Little River Lighthouse was former lighthouse keeper Terry Rowden who recounted many stories of life on the island from when he was stationed there in 1966. Also on hand was former lighthouse keeper John Arrington who was Officer in Charge in 1972. However, it was the descendants of Willie W. Corbett, the last keeper of the United States Lighthouse Service to be stationed at Little River Lighthouse when the Coast Guard took over in 1939, that made up the largest contingent with well over a dozen of the Corbett family volunteering in various locations throughout the town, including being in the top and bottom of the tower to greet people.
At Head Harbour Lighthouse on Campobello Island it was the first time that most people had ever climbed the tower or toured the keeper’s house of the picturesque Canadian Light Station. Although, Mulholland Lighthouse, also on Campobello Island, was not available for climbing, the tower was open, giving people the opportunity to peer inside. The Lubec Channel Lighthouse, which rests in the channel between the two nations was not open for tours but counted in the Challenge as one of the lighthouses that could be viewed. In fact, many of the participants were able to meet and talk with the new owner of the sparkplug lighthouse, Gary Zaremba of New York, while they got their maps stamped.
Tim Harrison, of the Friends of Little River Lighthouse, who came up with the idea of the event, said he and others felt it was success, although he said, “Now that we’ve completed one event, we now know of ways we can improve on it, should we decide to do it again.”
In attendance was Stan Farham, president of the Florida Lighthouse Association, who rated it as a great event saying he hopes to pattern one like it for Florida. “As well as a number of Mainers who attended, participants came from Pennsylvania, Colorado, Florida, Virginia, Maryland, New York and as far away as California,” said Finnegan. In fact she said that she fielded nearly 600 inquiries leading up to the Challenge. Many attendees stated they had been to ‘Lighthouse Challenges’ in Maryland, New Jersey and Long Island, but this was the best one they had ever attended.
The Machias Savings Bank, The University of Maine at Machias and Lighthouse Digest Magazine of Whiting cosponsored the first International “Lights Across the Border,” Lighthouse Challenge.
This story appeared in the
September 2008 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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