St. John Valley

Couple captures County ‘snowbirds’ on film

FLORIDA / Aroostook County — It happens every year. When the leaves start to turn, they leave. Friends, neighbors and relatives head south for the winter.

Brenda and Alan Jepson, residents at Madawaska Lake really notice it when the snowbirds head south, so the film-making team decided to find out just what the appeal is, aside from the obvious weather differences.

“Alan and I are of Swedish descent and we’re more like polar bears,” said Brenda Jepson, a 33-year volunteer filmmaker for Maine Public Television. “We love the snow and the sports we can do here in winter.”

So when a neighbor of the Jepsons invited them to visit Florida, they combined this offer with some air miles they had to discover what life is like for Maine snowbirds.

For 10 days, the Jepsons filmed four different couples from various parts of Maine to make a one-hour film called “Snowbirds.”

Their friends, neighbors and one relative agreed to have their winter lives in the Sunshine State recorded so Mainers back home could find out what their lives are like.

“I really had visions of them spending their time lounging on the beach,” said Brenda Jepson. “But it couldn’t have been further from the truth.”

What the Jepsons discovered were Mainers living active lives and doing a lot for charities — especially in Desoto County, which is one of the poorest in Florida.

They also found that even though they were focusing on four couples they knew well, every time they turned around they bumped into another Mainer.

“We found that Maine really is a village — even when that village is in Florida. We went out to hear a local chorus perform and met Roy Michaud from Wallagrass – 30 miles up the road from where we live.”

Michaud and his wife, Charlene, help run a homeless shelter in downtown Arcadia.

Two other couples the Jepsons homed in on are Bill and Jean Duncan, their neighbors at Madawaska Lake, and Dave Quist from Stockholm and his wife, Genie from Manchester.

The resulting film shows that the Maine spirit is alive and well in winter in Florida. Volunteerism, patriotism, a hard work ethic, adventure and fun are all on display. And do the Jepsons plan to become snowbirds now?

“We have a saying in Maine’s Swedish Colony: Borta bra men hemma bäst,” says Brenda Jepson. “Away is good but home is best.”

The following is a one-minute video clip of the show:

“Snowbirds” from Crown Of Maine Productions on Vimeo.

Snowbird DVD’s are available at crownofmaineproductions.com or in stores countywide.

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