The Small Town: Strong, Maine – Population 1,259
The Claim to Fame: The Toothpick Capital of the World
Rarely, in the annals of shameless civic self-promotion, have I seen a more glaring example of an opportunity squandered. Strong, a small town in Maine, used to be the “Toothpick Capital of the World,” because, at one time, Strong Wood Products was producing about 20 million toothpicks a day.
And yet they don’t have an annual toothpick festival.
If this was my town, the first thing you would see upon entering the city would be the world’s largest toothpick, hundreds of feet tall, towering over the surrounding landscape, proclaiming to the world that you have entered toothpick country.
And just down the street would be the world’s only toothpick museum, a celebration of the rich and proud heritage of the toothpick, a place where you can learn things about toothpicks which you never wanted to know. You probably didn’t know that Agathocles, a tyrant of Syracuse, died in 289 B.C. when using his toothpick – an enemy is said to have soaked it in poison without him knowing. And did you know that toothpicks have been around even longer than our own species, that archaeological evidence shows Neanderthals used toothpicks? Well you know now.
But, to top it all off, the big juicy cherry on top of this toothpick sundae, would be the annual International Toothpick Festival with throngs of people churning past hundreds of stalls offering a mind-numbing array of toothpick arts and crafts. And there would be a toothpick spitting contest, followed by the toothpick balancing contest, where the record is forever stuck at one, but people keep trying. And Sunday evening, to end the festivities, some local girl, in her toothpick gown, would weep as a toothpick tiara is gently lowered onto her head, and she is declared this year’s Toothpick Queen.