At Chester Greenwood Day, It's All About Earmuffs (Yup, Earmuffs)
When most teenagers get cold, they complain and go inside. But not Chester Greenwood. Back in 1873, the Farmington 15-year-old grew frustrated with his freezing ears while ice skating, and in a defining display of Yankee ingenuity, set about finding a solution.
A wool scarf made his ears itch so he began to fashion some wire in the shape of ears and asked his grandmother to sew two fur flaps. The rest, as they say, is history.
These days, residents of the town of Farmington and earmuff aficionados from far and wide gather each year to celebrate Greenwood’s signature invention (he also invented the wide bottom kettle, spring steel rake, a folding bed, and the precursor to today’s airplane landing gear), which at one time were being manufactured by the hundreds of thousands in the town.
This year’s celebration will be held Saturday, December 3 and kicks off with a massive parade at 11 a.m. At the parade, earmuffs will abound as they hang alongside the holiday wreaths on the light poles, wrap their way around the sheriff’s car, and keep the ears of everyone from kids to canines covered.
“Chester Greenwood’s leadership, inventiveness and efforts to help the community are something for us all to be proud of. This parade certainly has a uniqueness of its own,” says Franklin County Chamber of Commerce Director Laurie Blake. “There is not another community in the US that has one!”
Following the parade, a chili cook-off with plenty of spicy samples is served up in the downtown’s gazebo and hot cocoa is handed out.
The downtown shops and eateries are abuzz with energy as visitors get a head start on their holiday shopping and other events throughout the day include an icy polar bear dip in nearby Clearwater Lake, a children’s celebration at Franklin Memorial Hospital and a Festival of Trees that puts Christmas trees decorated by different organizations and businesses up for auction to benefit the local Rotary.
“Every year you just get blown away by the brand new ways people come up with creatively display their earmuffs,” said Franklin County Chamber of Commerce board member Leslie Bull. “You just never know what you are going to see.”
Bull says she didn’t understand the far reaches of earmuffs until she was watching the Winter Olympics in Japan in 1998.
“Here I was, watching the Olympics from my living room in Farmington Maine and I see all of these spectators and athletes wearing earmuffs, which were invented right here,” she explains. “Earmuffs are a very practical, cool invention that people have a lot of run with.”
Bull says anyone who has ever donned a pair of earmuffs, which have transformed from function to fashion since Greenwood’s time, would certainly enjoy the event. It’s about more than earmuffs though, she stresses.
“This is a chance to get a real slice of New England charm,” she explains. “It’s simply enchanting. And it’s like this here all the time, even though there aren’t always so many earmuffs.”
For more information about Chester Greenwood Day, visit the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce’s Web site at www.farmingtonchamber.org or call (207) 778-4215.