Like any red-blooded Mainer, there are some things I’m predisposed to love: Shortcuts around peak-summer traffic. Red hot dogs and Humpty Dumpty All-Dressed potato chips. And, especially in my case, cool old stuff — the kinds of things you find in antique shops, barns and garages that always come with a story.
Mainers love old stuff, be it valuable or little more than junk. Maybe it’s because of Yankee thriftiness. Maybe it’s because we love a good story. Probably a bit of both.
That’s likely why one of my favorite TV shows is PBS’s “Antiques Roadshow.” Long before they were buying and selling on “Pawn Stars” or plucking treasures out of trash on “American Pickers,” the appraisers on “Antiques Roadshow” were calmly explaining to the most polite guests in the history of American television the stories of their stuff.
But after many hours watching episodes and YouTube clips of things like that amazing Navajo Ute First Phase Blanket, I’m just a bit sore that “Antiques Roadshow” has never been to Maine.
Season 22 begins airing on Jan. 8 on PBS, with episodes filmed in Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Missouri and Oregon. The five states the show will visit on tour in 2018 are Florida, Oklahoma, Kentucky, California and Michigan.
Twenty-two years. No Maine. No New Hampshire or Vermont either, or Wyoming, Delaware or Alaska. But the show has been filmed in every other state. It’s even featured North and South Dakota and Montana, though each of those states has way fewer people than Maine.
How have they never filmed in a state that is home to places like the Big Chicken Barn, and James D. Julia, one of the most prestigious auction houses in the country? With countless homes both grand and humble chock full of bric-a-brac and heirlooms, it’s more than a little ridiculous. There was even a show about Mainers buying and selling stuff — “Down East Dickering,” which ran on the History Channel for two seasons in 2014 and 2015.
As someone that grew up in Searsport, the self-proclaimed “antiques capital of Maine ,” I have plenty of opinions on the topic — and I’m not the only one. Few love old stuff more than Kevin Webb, general manager of Uncle Henry’s, the beloved swap and sell bible printed weekly since 1970.
“When people start asking why we collect things and keep them for years and years, they might have this sort of hoarder situation in mind. But in my experience that is not the case,” said Webb. “If you ask someone about something, they often will have a very detailed story about the value of that item, where it came from, why they have it.”
Imagine the gems hidden away in attics and sheds across Maine, kept for both sentimental and practical reasons. People on the show have found Louis Comfort Tiffany relics worth $100,000 in ash heaps. Surely there’s something like that squirreled away here.
“That’s kind of the Maine philosophy: ‘How do I make sure I’ve got whatever I need to live the way I want to live without having to rely on anyone else?’” said Webb. “You don’t want to buy it again. And you might need it someday. That’s why we keep things.”
It might be more fun to imagine some sort of covert plan on behalf of the show’s producers to exclude the Pine Tree State, but the reality of the situation is far more banal.
I reached out to executive producer Marsha Bemko to ask why Maine was one of the six states not yet visited, and it turns out it has to do with the size of the state’s venues.
“The decision of where we visit comes down to schedule and opportunity,” said Bemko, in an email. “Until this year our tour was based in convention centers, and due to our specific venue requirements, Maine did not have a possible site for us.”
According to the Roadshow website, producers require a venue with a minimum 80,000 square feet available. None of the state’s large venues, including the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor, the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland and the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston, meet those requirements.
Fortunately, Maine’s chances of being featured on the show may improve in the next few years.
Starting this year, “Roadshow” will begin filming at historic locations without its usual capacity requirements, rather than at arenas and convention centers.
“Every year there is stiff competition for spots in the ‘Roadshow’ tour. But now that we are expanding our venue search to historical sites, there may be a future opportunity for Maine,” said Bemko.
They’ve already shot at one historic location: a Gilded Age mansion in Newport, Rhode Island. There are lots of possibilities for Maine — wouldn’t an episode filmed at Fort Knox State Park in Prospect be neat? What about the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village in New Gloucester? Heck, even the Bangor Waterfront could be in the running.
Regardless, “Roadshow,” I’ll be expecting a Maine episode in the coming seasons. As a scion of the antiques capital of Maine, you owe it to me.
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