DAMARISCOTTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Columbus Day weekend is a three-day weekend for many people, and typically the last big weekend of the summer and fall tourist season.
That means roads like U.S. Route 1 in Wiscasset were already busy by early afternoon Friday. Traffic was backed up as visitors headed north for the weekend. Some were stopping for lobster along the way, and restaurants are expected to be busy over the weekend.
The Maine Innkeepers Association said Columbus Day is also the single busiest weekend of the year for most hotels, motels and inns.
It also means another few days of tourist customers for retailers. In Damariscotta, the annual Pumpkin Fest celebration already had the sidewalks busy Friday afternoon, as artists finished work decorating dozens of giant pumpkins. For all those businesses, the weekend will cap off what has been a strong season.
“2014 was the best year we ever had, after 2007,“ said Greg Dugal of the Maine Innkeepers and Maine Restaurant Associations. “2007 was the benchmark, 2014 became the new benchmark. Last year we were slightly ahead of 2014, and I think this year we’ll be ahead of 2015. So no complaints.“
A number of businesses had problems recruiting enough workers, and Dugal said that isn’t likely to change next year. He said businesses need to start early and be creative in how they find, attract and retain good workers. Aside from that problem, Dugal said as long as there is good weather, the 2017 tourist season should also be a good one.
Some businesses will shut down in the next few weeks. Others stay open year round. Dugal said there should still be a few more busy weekends for “leaf peepers,” which will keep customers coming to restaurants and hotels.
At Frank’s Lobster on the waterfront in Wiscasset, owner Frank Sprague said it has been a “great season," but a long one.
“The last day we had off was May 6, so I’m ready for a day off,” Sprague said.