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Allen Adams, Mike Dow, Matthew Cunha & Sienna Barstow Allen Adams, Mike Dow, Matthew Cunha & Sienna Barstow
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2017 - The Maine Edge Year in Review

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It has been another great year here at The Maine Edge. As 2017 comes to an end, the editorial team here would like to take a look back at the year that was.

We’ll all be offering a look back at some of the highlights of the year. Here are just a few of our favorites from among the hundreds of stories filed over the course of 2017, in no particular order.

Allen Adams

John Hodgman

Speaking with John Hodgman was one of the biggest treats of 2017. His new book “Vacationland” is absolutely phenomenal, of course, but while our conversation centered mostly on the book, we also had time to talk about a few other things as well. His connection to Maine – a deep one, despite the fact that he’s “from away” and can never truly be one of us – is deep and real; his fondness for his part-time adopted home is genuine and engaging.

He was also warm and charming and incredibly forthcoming, speaking freely with real depth and clarity about some wide-ranging thoughts and ideas. His combination of quick wit and candor is something one rarely sees.

Plus, I got to talk to him about Black Francis of The Pixies and Marvel’s classic Canadian super-team Alpha Flight – two things I’d never have imagined I’d speak about to the same person. Since then, I’ve been telling people that he and I are basically best friends now. I know that’s weird, but I won’t apologize for it.

The Lost Kitchen

Erin French’s restaurant in the tiny town of Freedom has become a phenomenon in the culinary world over the past couple of years. It has been the subject of glowing testimonials from journalistic giants like the New York Times and food-world titans like Martha Stewart. For this story, I experienced the Lost Kitchen for myself and I must say – what French is doing warrants every single iota of praise that has been heaped upon her.

It took me nearly 200 attempts to get through and secure a reservation at The Lost Kitchen – and it would have been worth 2,000 tries. In that converted mill situated alongside a burbling river in a town that took nearly an hour to get to, I had one of the greatest dining experiences of my entire life. I’ll never forget it.

Palette-Swap Ninja

Palette-Swap Ninja is a musical duo that specializes in nerd-oriented parodies of popular music. Dan Amrich and Jude Kelley (note: Jude is my brother-in-law and a generally awesome guy) are a pair of smart, talented dudes who have a deep and abiding love for both sides of the parodic coin – the music and the geek culture. They’ve scored some successes in the past, but when they released their magnum opus – an album-length mash-up of The Beatles’ “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “Star Wars: A New Hope” titled “Princess Leia’s Stolen Death Star Plans,” well – it blew up, taking the internet by storm and amassing nine-figure hit counts on YouTube.

Talking to the guys via Skype was a delight, with both expressing a sort of stunned wonder at just how fully their work – five years in the making – was embraced by two notoriously finicky fanbases.

Bill Engvall

Back in February, I had the opportunity to speak to comedian Bill Engvall in advance of his appearance at the Collins Center for the Arts in Orono. While I’ve been very lucky over the years with regards to my conversations with famous folks, one never knows how interviews like this are going to go.

Bill Engvall is among the best I’ve ever had.

Not only was he funny – which is, you know, his job – he came across as one of the most disarmingly genuine people I’ve ever spoken to. Not famous people. People, period. His gratitude for what he has and toward the people who have helped him get it came through in everything that he said. He has worked tirelessly to get to where he is, yet is quick to praise everyone who took part along the way. Just an absolutely delightful human being.

Those are just a few of the stories it was my privilege to write this year. I had amazing conversations with luminaries such as character actor extraordinaire Stephen Tobolowsky and next-level Baseball Hall of Fame expert Jay Jaffe. I was able to write about the region’s rich live theater scene from both the outside and from within. I reviewed 60-plus books and close to 100 films. I wrote about cultural institutions like the Maine International Film Festival and Bangor’s annual ARTober celebration and the Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race.

All in all, 2017 was a very good year. Here’s hoping 2018 shines just as brightly.


Mike Dow

It’s been quite a remarkable year here at The Maine Edge. Looking back over the previous 51 issues created in 2017, each carefully crafted with equal parts blood, sweat and caffeine, I’m astonished that I get to work with this wonderful group of people.

From the editorial department, to the sales folks who hit the street to meet with our advertisers, to management personnel and the tireless team responsible for physically delivering your issue every Wednesday, it is an honor to have a role within the overall coolness that is the Edge.

I was asked to select a few of my personal favorite stories from the year, extract a segment or two, and offer up a few words explaining their inclusion in our year-end issue.

I’ve interviewed dozens of famous names in music, television and film this year. The interviews are still there on the website if you’d like to take a peek. It would be easy to roll out a few of them here but that doesn’t feel right to me. Don’t get me wrong - I enjoyed speaking with all of those people - but there is one story that holds more meaning.

Personally, my most meaningful story was my August cover feature on Dakota, the venerable Bangor-based band now in its fourth decade of rockin’ in the free world.

I’ve been a fan and friend of Dakota since the mid ‘90s, when I worked at radio station Z107.3 – back when it was based in Old Town and had a “Greatest Hits of the ‘70s” format. The guys would sometimes drop by before a show to hang out, eat some pizza, take some phone calls and play guest DJ. Those were the days.

Then and now, Dakota is the real deal. When they’re onstage, they’ll rock you like nobody’s business. Offstage, you won’t find a kinder, sweeter group of musicians. (As in, “Hey, where’s Vinny? It’s 2 a.m., the truck is loaded and we’re pulling out.” “Cool your jets. He’s fixing some stranger’s car out in the parking lot.”)

I started working on the Dakota cover story in April, months before a date had even been assigned for the story. Over the course of four extended interviews conducted through July, I accumulated enough good material for a decent-sized book. Whittling it down to the story as it appeared on August 23 was challenging.

Dakota’s story was a tale of two Canadian brothers who had a dream of being a successful rock and roll band. They moved to Maine and realized that dream to a significant extent, not by going platinum or appearing on the cover of Rolling Stone, but by nearly losing it all before realizing what is most important in the end – family.

Dakota is now led by Vinny and Dylan Cormier – father and son. Vinny’s goal is to one day step aside and watch his son take Dakota to the next level.

Dylan: “(Being in Dakota) has really turned into a blessing for both us. I get to play music with my father. And I think he would say the same about playing with his son. I’ve had some amazing opportunities that came from this band and I’ve really grown as a person and as a musician.”

Vinny: “When (wife) Jolene became pregnant with Dylan, I told the guys in the band that my touring days were over. That’s when we recorded an album called ‘The Long Road Home.’

I don’t take any of this for granted. I don’t want to retire yet because I’m scared to stop. My voice is holding up and I can still play as well as ever, but there will come a day when I’ll hand the keys to the Dakota truck to Dylan and then it’s up to him where he’s going to drive it.”

Dakota will ring in 2018 on New Year’s Eve at Penobscot Pour House, 14 Larkin St. in Bangor. 


Sienna Barstow

BANGOR – I always find myself drawn to unconventional things. In middle school, I played the xylophone while everyone else played the recorder. In college, I decided to play rugby while my friends decided to use the treadmill at the gym.

During my time at The Maine Edge, the Bangor roller derby team caught my eye as a possible story, not only because it was about an uncommon sport but also because of the tough women on the team. This story turned out to be one of the highlights of my tenure at the Edge.

I reached out to the team for an interview and they replied quickly. The next step was going to a roller derby practice, I immediately felt comfortable when I walked into the practice area. The women on the team were friendly and tenacious. One of the women was a doctor and another was a bee farmer. The whole scene felt bizarre and interesting. At first glance, I thought, what are these successful women doing chasing each other around a roller rink? Also, when can I strap on a pair of blades and try this? During my interviews, the bizarreness faded and I became inspired by the pride and camaraderie that existed on the team.

I was not only inspired by the team itself but also what the team does for the community. The team helps their community with food drives and toy drives. Also, the team holds anti-bullying seminars at local schools. During these anti-bullying seminars, the team promotes tolerance and acceptance, working as a team, respecting diversity and speaking out against bullying. Spending time outside of the rink to promote kinship and understanding is something every athletic team should try.

At the end of my interviewing process, I realized this team makes a difference whether they’re taking hits in the rink or giggling during an anti-bullying seminar.

As you might imagine, this story was a real winner for me. 


Matthew Cunha

During the summer of 2017, I found myself part of The Maine Edge scene as a summer intern. Little did I know that I would find myself out of my comfort zone on a repeated basis.

I’m a sports journalism student, but most of my stories covered topics of which I had little prior knowledge; it’s an opportunity for which I’m very grateful.

Whether it be talking to organizers of different festivals such as the Belfast Celtic Festival and the Pittsfield Egg Festival, speaking to the owners of local small businesses such as Giacomo's, Wicked Brew and Willie Wags or participating in events such as the Whoopie Pie Festival in Dover-Foxcroft and (my personal highlight) the Wicked Muddy Mainer in Orrington, I was doing something new.

Every day, every piece, I had to become knowledgeable with regards to an unfamiliar topic to fulfill my due diligence in informing you, the reader. There was no greater privilege as I pursue my career as a journalist.

The moment I truly become grateful for my summer as an intern at The Maine Edge came during the previously-mentioned Wicked Muddy Mainer. I had written a preview piece before the event and was asked by editor Allen Adams to participate and write about my experience -  something I never imagined myself doing.

At the start, I lost my sock in the mud. I had a short moment of “Why did the bleep did I do this,” but about halfway through, I knew that the experience would definitely be a rewarding one.

That experience with the Wicked Muddy Mainer really summed up my time at The Maine Edge. The mud race - just like most of what I did at The Edge - brought me to a place in which I never imagined myself. It was an experience that made me afraid of nothing that I might face in my future as a journalist going forward.

I did get the chance to use some of my own expertise as well. I spoke to Jeremy Swayman – currently the starting goalie for the University of Maine’s men’s hockey team. That opportunity is something that I hope to look back on as one of the moments that helped propel my career as a sports journalist. I joked with him after the interview that if we see each other again, it would be great news for both of us - he is a Boston Bruins prospect, while working Boston would be a dream come true for me.

In my last piece for The Edge, I interviewed Gracie Theatre Managing Director Jeri Misler for a preview of their season series – my first cover story. I am grateful that the staff at the Edge was willing to allow me to write for the cover and to write a longer-form piece. Being on the cover of The Maine Edge is something that I can be very proud of.

2017 was a great step forward for me in my path as a journalist. The Maine Edge brought me to places I never imagined I’d go and allowed me to speak to people I never imagined I would be talking to.

Plus, I got some pretty cool pictures of me drenched in mud. Those could come in handy. 


And that's the year that was at The Maine Edge. 2017 was a great one - let's hope for even greater things to come in 2018.


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