December 9, 2013

Farmington celebrates Chester Greenwood Day

The inventor of the earmuffs is one part of an intriguing town history, historians said.

By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling mhhetling@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

FARMINGTON — On Saturday, the spirit of a famed local inventor was very much alive as area residents turned out for the 37th annual Chester Greenwood Day.

click image to enlarge

In the spirit: Dan Farrington, dressed as an elf, waves to the crowd on Main Street during the annual Chester Greenwood Day parade in downtown Farmington on Saturday.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

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A variety of earmuffs-themed floats and marchers paraded through the streets, attempting to outdo one another with their Greenwood spirit; while historical society volunteers worked to connect the dots between Farmington’s famous former resident and a broader local history.

Some vehicles, including a bus from the Mt. Blue school district and a riding mower from ISR Carpentry, were festooned with giant earmuff models, while others incorporated earmuffs into a type of performance art.

Decked out in sports coats and earmuffs, about a dozen members of the Smiling Goat Precision Juggling Corps displayed more smiles than precision, but their juggling skills drew appreciative cheers from the crowd.

The parade also included kicking gymnasts, a trailer bearing a winter wonderland complete with snow and trees, floats from Hammond Lumber and the New Hope Baptist Church, carolers, and a dog on a horse.

Riding in an antique firetruck, Santa Claus called out a hearty “Merry Christmas” to a small group of young women on the steps of the University of Maine at Farmington’s Mallett Hall, and the women offered whoops of encouragement and support.

Amid the color and flash outdoors, many businesses and nonprofit organizations opened their doors with special events to take advantage of the crowds, which was emboldened by a bright sun that staved off the worst of the cold.

The Fairfield Historical Society held open house events at its three properties — the Titcomb House on Academy Street, the North Church on High Street, and the Hiram Ramsdell house on Perham Street.

In the Titcomb House, a small display included photographs of Chester Greenwood wearing his ever-present bowler hat, examples of his inventions, and some of his early advertisements for his earmuffs.

“The circus will not be here for some time yet, but Greenwood’s Champion Ear Protectors are now on the spot,” read one. “You will need them before the winter blasts are hushed in spring.”

Another ad noted that, at 25 cents a pair, the price of Greenwood’s earmuffs “may not be as low as some, but we are giving more value for the money than any other manufacturer.”

It went on to tout the compact size of a folding Greenwood earmuff.

“To have cold ears while wearing them is an impossibility,” it concluded.

The Hiram Ramsdell house, more commonly known as the Octagon House for its unusual eight-sided design, is less than a mile from Greenwood’s Farmington home.

Inside, historical society volunteers showed off the building, which was open to the public for the first time since the society acquired the property in March and began renovating it.

Volunteer Cindy Holschuh, who heads the society’s Octagon House committee, said attendance and spirits were high in the early hours of the open house, which she hoped would bring attention to the town’s historical treasures.

“Everyone is curious about this house and what it’s like inside,” she said.

And on Chester Greenwood Day, she said, a celebration of the famous inventor is really a celebration of the town and its unique history.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287 mhhetling@centralmaine.com Twitter: @hh_matt
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