Michael Sapanara can keep a secret.
For other riders, Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington Railway Museum’s fall festival Saturday, Sept. 28 was a beautiful day to pick a pumpkin, bob for an apple, or take in bluegrass music in the grass at Alna Center. But for Sapanara and wife Donna, the ride along the narrow gauge rails was part of a trip he secretly planned for eight months for their 40th wedding anniversary.
The Reedville, Virginia couple honeymooned in Maine in 1979, traveling the coast in a 1973 Volkswagen Super Beetle. This time, he couldn’t find one to rent, so they took the minivan.
A few days before the trip, he tipped her off to pack jackets and jeans, but gave no other clues before they left. State after state as they kept heading north, “I was getting suspicious” the destination might be Maine, Donna said. She didn’t know for sure until they crossed over the Maine border.
Friday was shopping in Belfast; for Sunday, their anniversary, he booked the room they had 40 years ago at Bar Harbor’s Atlantic Oceanside Hotel. The trip included new stops and activities. Saturday was the couple’s first time in Alna. They enjoyed the visit. “I love Maine, the scenery, the people. I love the country,” she said.
Other festival-goers on the full train cars mid-morning were also enjoying the scenery, as conductor Ed Lecuyer told them they could get off the train at Alna Center for the festival’s activities or stay on for the rest of the route. “Any way you want to do it, just enjoy the day at Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington Railway.”
That drew a chorus of “Yay’s.”
WW & F’s Jason Lamontagne said 200 people turned out Saturday. Fellow volunteer Gordon Cook of Acton, Massachusetts was among those praising the weather, sunny and mild with a light fall breeze. “We’ve had some good weather, but this is great! It’s perfect.”
At Alna Center, Margaret McCorkle, 2, of Bath ate an apple as she stood listening to a Topsham couple, Bluegrass Music Association of Maine’s Kate Greeley on upright bass and Anthony Jaccarino on guitar. McCorkle’s mother Caitlin bobbed for the apple. She got it by the stem, she revealed. “I cheated a little.”
On the return trip to Sheepscot Station, Michael Sapanara described the train ride as cool. And what’s the secret to 40 years of marriage?
“I traveled a lot,” he said, smiling. Then he said to ask his wife that question. She was chatting across the aisle with East Hampton, Connecticut’s Jonathan and Elma May Brey, married 56 years.
Asked moments later, Donna said: “Well, (Michael) traveled a lot.”
The Breys have ridden the museum’s rails many times. He’s a train fan, Elma May explained. Both enjoy the visits. “And the people who run the train are very helpful,” she added.