Winters a trial for Maine's nudists
Boston Globe, MA
By Jenna Russell, Globe Staff
BANGOR -- They say they like being naked because it feels free, uncomplicated. But for members of the Dirigo Naturist Association, a nude recreation club known until this month as Bare Nekkid Mainers, finding places to take it all off has been anything but easy.
When they tried to plan a dance for New Year's Eve, three function halls turned them away. When they scheduled a Labor Day lobster feed, a campground accepted their reservation, but canceled it later.
The Bangor nudists were thrust into the spotlight in January, when police were called to a bowling alley they had rented for one of their popular nude bowling parties. Summoned by a man who walked into the business with his son despite a "private party" sign outside, police found no laws had been broken. Still, the incident made news all over the country. Some New Englanders seemed stunned to learn of nudist activity in Maine in January.
Eric Soderberg , a club member from Hermon, suspects that nude recreation is more common than most people realize.
"I think there's a lot of it that we don't know about, in people's homes, at their camps, in their hot tubs," he said.
For decades, a small number of resourceful New England nudists have quietly shed their clothing at resorts, beaches, and campgrounds with tolerant owners or "clothing optional" policies. There are nude resorts in the Berkshires and on Cape Cod; a clothing-optional bed-and-breakfast near Maine's capital, Augusta; and nude recreation clubs around the region, including one based in Ludlow that hosts an annual beach clean up on the Cape.
Venues for nudity abound in the summer, when backyards, beaches, and campgrounds beckon, nudists say. The winters, however, test their dedication, especially in such places as Bangor, where winters are long, club members live hundreds of miles apart, and host establishments are hard to find.
"Those who have more money go off to the Caribbean, and us working folks are just trying to keep together," said one of the leaders of the Maine club, a Bangor woman who asked to be identified by only her first name, Hessa , because she fears harassment. "It really is truly a challenge."
Reports of nudity in northern climes are not unknown. Students at Bowdoin College in Brunswick hold an annual nude party, the college newspaper reported recently. In Vermont last summer, a group of teenagers took to hanging out naked in a parking lot in downtown Brattleboro , provoking complaints.
Despite its winters, New England is considered an important region by the American Association for Nude Recreation.
"Our members tend to be college-educated and politically moderate, with incomes above $50,000, like a lot of people in parts of New England, and that makes it very fertile ground," said Erich Schuttauf , executive director of the Florida-based group.
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Boston Globe, MA