by Susan Feeney-Hopkins
The town of Portage Lake held its annual Town Christmas Party Saturday, Dec. 14. Hosted by Dean’s Motor Lodge, town residents enjoyed a potluck dinner and shared delicious homemade meals and desserts. The atmosphere — as usual — was one of warmth and good friends.
Around 6 p.m., bright lights and colorful strings of lights, headed in the direction of Dean’s, caught the attention of the guests. As we wondered what was going on, lo and behold, Santa was being given a ride to the party on the back of the Portage Lakers Snowmobile Club’s new groomer! To the delight of the children, Santa had gifts for each of them, which were handed out with the assistance of Santa’s helper, Alli Kenney. Guests also enjoyed a Yankee Swap, which is always a fun time.
Special thanks to those who helped to make the party a success: Betty and Mark Benson (Santa), Tammy Curran, Jen Curran, Beech Kenney (Santa’s chauffeur) and Alli Kenney (Santa’s helper). Thanks also to Dean’s Motor Lodge for hosting the party and to the Portage Lakers Snowmobile Club for inviting Santa!
Though the weather outside was frightful, 19 joyful souls attended the Christmas House Tours which took place in Ashland Sunday, Dec. 15. The community fund-raising event was sponsored by St. Mark’s Church Our Ladies of the Snow Sodality group.
The guests met at the Ashland Advent Christian Church at 1 p.m. to tour different homes around Ashland, each decorated for the Christmas season with a different style or theme. The first home on the tour belonged to David and Velma Craig. The Craig’s 1950s home was decorated with wreaths and candles, snowmen and snowflakes along with a miniature city and over 50 nativities!
The second tour was held at the home of Connie Herald. She enjoys displaying the many handmade cards and decorations she has been given by friends and family members over the years. The most special of her Christmas decorations are her memorials to her loved ones who have passed. She places red berries on their photographs each year during Christmas time.
Charlene O’Clair’s home was the third to be visited. Built in the early 1900s, the home still features some of its original structure, and was once the Union Congregational Church parsonage. In memory of her husband, Sonny, who loved birds and the sounds of bells, she decorated her Christmas tree with birds, eight bells representing their eight grandchildren, silver snowflakes and six white-tailed doves — the symbol of peace on Earth.
The fourth “home” to be toured was the Ashland Advent Christian Church. There, visitors were treated to a “Live Nativity” featuring Mary and Joseph, shepherds, angels and the manger. Live animals were supposed to be included in this unique exhibit, but due to the inclement weather, it was decided it was best they were not included. Volunteers from the church and community recreated the nativity bringing Christmas to life! Participating were the Calhoun family, the Howes family, Matt and Ellen Libby, Frank and Carol Martin, Paul and Kim Haines, and Karen Oakes.
George and Barbara Baker’s home was the fifth stop on the tour. The Baker’s home is filled with an abundance of hand and homemade decorations. There are also items from when Barbara had a small woodcraft shop, items given to the couple by family and friends, along with many other decorations collected over the years.
The last home to be visited was the home of David and Mary Ellen Chasse. The Chasse’s home leans towards a non-traditional style of decorating. While there are some Christmas greens and reds, the Chasses use a lot of blue tones. In their home, you will find many angels, snowmen and Santas, along with ornaments they have acquired over the years. The centerpiece of their holiday decorations is their 10-foot tall live Christmas tree.
After the tours were completed, the group, with the help of volunteers, held a chicken stew and ploye dinner at the Advent Christian Church with approximately 45 people attending. The guests enjoyed a community sing along led by Larry Hall, Sherri Calhoun and Kevin and Jennifer Paradis.
Guests contributed a small fee to participate in the tour and the meal, with the proceeds being generously donated to Northwood Manor, a residential care facility in Ashland and to the Homeless Shelter in Presque Isle.
Historic Oxbow Lodge a total loss
The historic Oxbow Lodge, a landmark in Oxbow Plantation, burned to the ground in the early morning hours of Saturday, Dec. 14. According to Masardis Assistant Fire Chief Steven Sherman, 9-1-1 dispatched the Oxbow/Masardis Volunteer Fire Department at approximately 1:34 a.m., along with the Ashland Fire Department being dispatched for mutual aid.
Sherman and fellow firefighter Tom Dittus arrived on scene within 10 minutes of the call.
“Upon our arrival, the only thing left standing was the back corner apartment that was built on to the lodge,” said Sherman. “It’s a total loss.”
The fire was discovered and reported to 9-1-1 by a woodcutter traveling (by the lodge) on his way to work in the woods.
“The building was fully engulfed at that time,” said Sherman. “The weather didn’t help as temperatures were well below zero, which would have hampered any efforts as the fire trucks were frozen up.”
Fifteen firefighters were on hand and stood by until approximately 1 p.m. that afternoon. Town resident, Judy Sherman, Steven’s wife, supplied hot coffee, hot molasses cookies and grilled cheese sandwiches throughout the night.
The Oxbow Lodge was founded by trapper and guide Will Atkins in 1903, with 2013 marking its 100th anniversary. Originally known as the Atkins Hotel, it was built to accommodate sportsmen and women traveling to the hunting territory in which Atkins guided his sports. The lodge has changed hands several times over the years with Chad Deabay taking over operations within the last few years.
The Oxbow Lodge is a well-known sporting establishment within the community and the industry itself. The lodge has seen many outdoorsmen over its 100-year history, in addition to weddings and other events and celebrations. It’s a huge loss to the town; historically, economically and emotionally. Lodge owners/operators Chad and Jodi Deabay were not at the lodge at the time of the blaze. They could not be reached for comment, but are said to be devastated by the loss and unsure of any future plans to rebuild at this time. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
The Portage Lake ATV Club will meet every first Tuesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. in the Town Office. All are welcome to attend. Contact Rena Belanger for membership or more information at 435-2780.
The Ashland Area Senior Citizens meet the first and third Thursday at noon for a potluck luncheon at the LeBlanc Junkins VFW Post 9699 on the Portage Road with a meeting to follow. This active and growing club of senior citizens also takes trips to various restaurants throughout The County, hosts cookouts, enjoys guest speakers and entertainment such as musicians. For more information, contact Roberta Savary at 435-6422.
The Portage Lake Over 50’s Club lunch is held on the last Tuesday of every month at 11:30 a.m. at the Town Hall. All individuals 50 and over are invited to attend and can bring a potluck dish to share. For more information, contact Jean Clark at 435-8034 or Donna Martin at 435-7108.
The Red Hat Loonies of Portage Lake meet the second Thursday of every month at Dean’s Motor Lodge. Membership dues are $2. Come and have a great meal and a great time, too! For more information, contact Rachel Stevens at 435-6358.
Susan Feeney-Hopkins is the correspondent for Ashland, Portage Lake, Oxbow, Masardis, Garfield, Nashville Plantation and the surrounding areas. She can be reached at 227-7760 or Feenhop@aol.com.