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Visitors return to Maine tourist destinations for Memorial Day weekend

Local businesses saw a major boost from tourists visiting the state over the holiday weekend despite cold and rainy weather

MAINE, USA — Maine small businesses are prepared to see people back in stores this Memorial Day weekend.

On Sunday, boutiques, restaurants, breweries, stores, and beaches looked much different than last year, even with the gloomy weather.

According to The American Automobile Association (AAA), $1.7 million New Englanders are expected to travel this long holiday weekend, which is up 60% from last year.

Tourists packed many popular destinations across the state over the long weekend. In Old Orchard Beach, hundreds took to the area despite less than ideal weather.

"I've been wearing my raincoat around and just trying to enjoy it as best I can," said Ava Anderson, visiting from Massachusetts. 

Heavy winds kept many from heading into the water, but dozens still spent time flying kites and walking on the windy beach.

"It's definitely still very beautiful out, I think this year's a little colder than the others but it's still fun," said tourist Benjamin Pepper.

Palace Playland in Old Orchard Beach opened for the season over Memorial Day weekend, although it had to close early due to the weather.

And despite the weather, tourism was strong in Maine which helped give a boost to businesses across the state.

Colby Horne is the owner of Colburn Shoe Store in Belfast. He hopes more people support what Belfast's downtown has to offer this long holiday weekend and in the coming weeks, as businesses try to bounce back.

"We just need people to start moving around the community and start visiting us and shopping locally, and supporting downtowns," said Horne.

Sunsets keeps coming.

Posted by The Colonial Theatre on Saturday, May 29, 2021

"Comparing numbers to last year, sales were just off the chains...how well sales are these past few weekends, not only just this weekend but all the weekends leading up to Memorial Day," said Horne.

"There was a Rhode Island, a Connecticut, a Massachusetts, a New York license plate...so obviously people are on the coast and they are coming here!" said Mike Hurley, Belfast city councilor and owner of Colonial Theatre.

Colonial Theatre in Belfast will reopen in late June after being closed for a year and a half. Hurley said now feels like the right time to open and keep his customers safe while enjoying a movie.

"The Colonial has been closed for almost 16 months, we are really excited about reopening, we got a lot of good movies!" said Hurley.

"You gotta make hay when the sun shines so we are here to work and we are here every day," said Horne.

Posted by Colburn Shoe Store on Friday, May 28, 2021

Front Street Pub and Harborwalk restaurants are open providing the best service they can with fewer employees.

Owner Katherine Loblein says it has been a struggle hiring lately but is lucky to have a strong core staff during the busy hours of the day.

"People are just eager to get out and its nice to have our regulars back and the locals back and everyone out and in a good mood!" said Loblein. "I think it's going to be a crazy, awesome, fun summer and people are ready to get out and about!"

Fried lobster tacos 🌮

Posted by Harborwalk Restaurant on Tuesday, April 20, 2021

As more folks get out and about, many visitors to Maine were pleased at how Maine has handled the pandemic, and felt comfortable traveling to the Pine Tree State.

"We didn't go anywhere last year at all, so this is really the first time we've been out. Maine's been doing a great job. Everybody's friendly, everybody's happy, everybody's glad to be out," said Donna Dwyer, who is visiting OOB from Massachusetts.

"I see a lot of people wearing masks, and the others are fully vaccinated as myself. But I still carry one around just in case," said Pepper. 

Others, however, are not as quick to take their masks off.

"I'm not a big fan of how many people don't have their masks on," said Anderson. "I'm still a little weary of it. I got my second dose about a week ago, but I'm still cautious and trying to take precautions."

Despite differing feeling on masks, there was certainly a sign of normalcy in many Maine tourist communities. Many who spoke with NEWS CENTER Maine said they are already planning trips to come back later in the summer, and are hopeful for warmer weather.