Looking for a Maine vacation destination off the beaten path and close to the ocean? Consider a visit to the Sanford-Springvale area. Nestled in the southwestern corner of the state, this community is not on popular Route 1 nor is it bisected by the well-traveled Maine Turnpike (U.S. Route 95). To reach it, meander about 11 miles off the Turnpike northwest on Route 109 or west on Route 111. Better yet, fly into Sanford Regional Airport.
“Our airport is a big deal,” boasts Sanford-Springvale resident Rick Stanley, president of the area’s Chamber of Commerce. The public facility has one 5,000-foot runway and another 6,000-foot runway and is fully equipped. (Fun fact: both George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush frequently fly into Sanford Regional, en route to their summer home in Kennebunkport.)
“Sanford is a nice place,” Stanley adds. “It’s really the gateway to the lakes region.” Great East Lake and Square Pond are nearby, and the Mousam River runs through both the City of Sanford and the Village of Springvale. (Another fun fact: Sanford was a town until 2012, when voters approved changing its designation to city.)
“We’re also home to the Sanford Mainers,” Stanley says. The team is a member of the New England Collegiate Baseball League. “Plus, we have the best walking trail in York County, the Mousam Way Trail.”
As for what to do when you visit Sanford-Springvale, the community organizes three wildly popular annual events, Summah Daze in August, Harvest Daze in September and Holly Daze in December. According to Maura Herlihy, the president of the Downtown Legacy Group’s board of directors—the DLG is an organization working on revitalizing the area—“Summah Daze opens with a big car show Friday night.” This is followed by “an enhanced farmers’ market” and a food event called A Taste of Sanford. This last event is always a sellout, according to DLG Executive Director Fran Libby. “About 10 or 12 restaurants participate,” she says. “Each one offers a sample of whatever they want to offer.” For a $5 book of tickets, buyers get to check out five eateries.
The newest draw for visitors to Sanford-Springvale is a Fathers’ Day Family Fish Off, held in June. “The kids are so funny,” says Libby. “They catch a tiny sunfish and get all excited.” The action takes place at what’s called the #1 Pond, in the center of the city.
“What really grabs people, though,” Herlihy claims, “is the fall event that draws up to 5,000 people. That’s when the Red Star Pilots Association is here. They fly over in planes with open cockpits and drop pumpkins trying to hit a target in #1 Pond.” The Pumpkin Drop is so popular that one time when it started three hours late, she adds, “Everybody waited for it. Nobody left.”