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Friday, July 19, 2024

Local musicians visit home following Nashville success

By Lorraine Glowczak

What began as three Windham High School friends jamming together for fun has grown into a thriving musical career. David Young (Class of 2017), his younger brother, Deven Young (Class of 2019), and their friend Seth Martin (Class of 2017) have turned their shared passion for music into a professional success story.

With concerts scheduled in Naples,
Rumford and on Channel 6's '207 Show,'
David Young and the Interstate Kings 
are eager to perform a homecoming
show at Lenny's in Westbrook on 
July 31 as it is where they first honed
their performance skills. At left is 
David Young, top is Seth Martin and 
right is Deven Young, all of Windham.
COURTESY PHOTO  
The trio, David Young and the Interstate Kings is now a Nashville-based band that "serves up vintage American music with a modern indie focus." They have recently embarked on their first “Vintage American Tour” which includes a stop in their home state of Maine.

The folk/rock group are performing songs on the tour from their latest album recorded in Nashville entitled “Vintage American.” Upcoming tour dates will see the Interstate Kings play in cities throughout Ohio, Pennsylvania, Upstate New York, Illinois, and Kentucky, including a stop in Kansas City, renowned for its blues legacy. However, the stop they are most looking forward to is their “homecoming performances.”

“We are pumped to be coming home to play for all of our friends and family again – all those who loved our music and believed in us,” said David Young, guitarist, vocalist, and lyricist.

With concerts scheduled in Naples, Rumford, and on Channel 6’s 207 show, they are eager to perform their homecoming show at Lenny’s in Westbrook on July 31; the venue where the band perfected their performance skills.

“We are especially excited to do the show at Lenny’s,” Deven Young, the drummer, said. “We played there several times over the years, and it was there where we honed our sound as a band.”

Bill Umbel, the owner of Lenny’s, said he is looking forward to their return.

“It means a lot for everybody to have them back,” Umbel said. “The first time they performed for us was over five years ago, they were young high school kids. Our booking manager, Bucky Mitchell, booked them to play a gig for us and I wasn’t sure what to expect. When they began playing, I turned to Bucky and said, ‘Wow! These kids are pretty good.’ Not only were they talented, but they were professional musicians by interacting with the audience, which is paramount in the business of music. I knew these kids were going to go far.”

It was the Interstate King’s biggest fans, Charlie and Peggy Applin, who played a pivotal role in their early success by encouraging Umbel and Mitchell to book the musicians.

“Charlie and I followed David and The Interstate Kings whenever they played in the greater Portland area,” Peggy Applin said. “We often frequented Lenny’s to listen to the music and told Bill he should hire the band to play there. We promised he wouldn’t regret it. And here they are, over five years later and The Interstate Kings are coming home as professionals from Nashville to play at this popular venue again.”

Applin and many other Interstate Kings’ fans say they are looking forward to the band’s homecoming, including Dr. Richard Nickerson, the trio’s former music teacher at WHS.

“All three were in my music theory class,” Nickerson said. “Seth and the brothers had already started their band then, and I got to witness their professionalism and talent at an early age. I saw that they had good chemistry and respected one another. They knew how to have fun, but they also knew how to work hard. It’s very common for youth to start a band while in high school, but very rare to see the same lineup occurring professionally years later. I think their chemistry, hard work, and respect for one another may have something to do with that.”

Nickerson also spoke about their incredible talent.

“David also took my Guitar for Beginners class, but he was already at an advanced level,” Nickerson said. “I wasn’t sure what I could offer him, so we focused on the musical aspects of the guitar instead.”

Nickerson said that David Young’s advanced musical level comes with no ego. “As talented as he is, he is humble,” Nickerson said. “His creativity is genuine.”

Nickerson and other fans of the Interstate Kings agree that Deven Young and Seth Martin also have a creative depth that contributes to the band’s success. Deven’s contribution as a drummer is more about feeling than words.

“I approach our music by asking, ‘How is this song going to feel,’” Deven Young said. “There is a certain feeling the drum gives and I translate that feeling into rhythm.”

Seth Martin’s creativity doesn’t stop at the bass guitar. He is also the band’s marketing master.

“I design our advertisement, posters, etc. that convey our band’s sound,” Martin said. “It’s about visual branding, and since we write and perform old-school sounds of blues, rock, and folk, I work to capture that in vintage-looking posters and images.”

Martin said that music is their passion and dream, but to be successful, they also must be serious about music as a business.

Nickerson said that he is proud of his former students’ professionalism, hard work, and success.

“As a teacher, you always want your students to do well, and to watch these three work hard and flourish in the music industry is the best.”

Umbel echoed that sentiment.

“I look forward to seeing them perform again at Lenny’s.” he said. “And it is quite possible, the next time I see them, they will be bigwigs performing on the big stage.”

To learn more about David Young and the Interstate Kings on their Vintage American Tour, visit www.davidyoungtunes.com <

Puleo settles in as Windham’s new Planning Director

By Kaysa Jalbert

The Town of Windham has a new planning director, Stephen Puleo, who plans to approach his job with transparency and high standards when it comes to reviewing and approving project developments in Windham and aims to help make Windham the crown jewel of the coastal communities in Maine.

Stephen Puleo is the new Planning Director for the Town of
Windham and he is responsible for coordinating Planning
Department activities and overseeing the review and 
approval process for the town's Planning Board and 
ensuring that developments in Windham comply with
the local, state and federal land use laws.
PHOTO BY ED PIERCE   
As planning director, Puleo’s role is to coordinate planning and developments in the town of Windham. Puelo says his approach to this new role, “is to bring an open and transparent review and approval process on the planning board and the staff review committee for developments in Windham, and to ensure that all approvals have gone through an exhaustive compliance analysis to comply with the local, state and federal land use laws.”

Puleo’s goal as planning director is to be sure that these laws are implemented and to achieve a very high standard for the projects that are approved by the town planning board and staff review committee.

“I have always felt that’s it is important that we have an open and transparent process that nobody in the community as well as the applicants as well as staff feel like any of the process is being hidden from them, that there are agreements that are being made some place that are not in the light of day, and that all of the standards are being met by the applicants,” he said.

Puleo and the planning board have been working to complete some of the conditions of approval on several developments in Windham, one being the Windham Village Apartments, a 172-unit apartment complex that is on about a 9-acre lot along Tandberg Trail behind the Shaw’s Plaza.

Associated with this apartment complex is going to be a town-owned sewer pump station that will be the collection point for much of the sewer collection system that is currently being installed.

According to Puleo, what's unique about this plan is that the disposal system of this sewer treatment plant is the first of its kind in the state being permitted by the wastewater disposal division. In addition, this system can treat water to a drinkable level when it comes out the other end of the pipe. The plan is not to drink the water, however, it is to drip it into the groundwater of Sebago Lake, stopping uncontrolled wastewater from going into groundwater and replacing it with clean water through the new system.

The Windham Town Council entered into an agreement with Portland Water District in 2021 to design a reliable, technologically advanced wastewater treatment system that will improve and protect North Windham’s water quality. The funding for this project comes entirely from state loans and grants and is set to be operational by January 2026.

Prior to working as a municipal planner, Puleo was a tree care specialist, then owned and operated his own small business until moving on to work as an apple orchard manager. Since then, he has held a position as municipal planner in South Portland as well as in Windham for about 20 years.

He has a degree in urban forestry, which is where he fulfilled his tree specialist work, and an environmental science and policy degree from the University of Southern Maine and a masters’ degree in community land use development from the Muskie School at USM.

“I am really excited for the future of Windham. I see us as the top of the crown here in Southern Maine and I want people to see Windham for what it has to offer,” says Puleo. “We have plans to make Windham an even more attractive and beautiful community." <

Friday, July 12, 2024

Gathering in Raymond showcases American freedom for Darfurian immigrants

By Nicole Levine

This summer, Raymond’s Roberta “Bobbie” Gordon and her husband George once again opened their home to Darfurian immigrants for their annual July 4th celebration.

Immigrants from Darfur join friends from America in
celebrating July 4 with a picnic and gathering at the
Raymond home of Roberta 'Bobbie' Gordon, right. Gordon
has been instrumental in helping Darfurians to overcome
obstacles to enjoy a new life in the United States.
PHOTO BY NICOLE LEVINE  
The Gordons have been hosting this gathering most summers on Independence Day since 2008. Bobbie currently runs an independent group that was started by her and her colleague Roberta Zuckerman. The group was originally funded by the National Council of Jewish Women to support Darfurian immigrants in helping them learn to speak English and to assimilate into American culture.

Through Bobbie’s program, members speak locally to spread awareness and raise funds to help immigrants coming to the U.S from Darfur. Through their efforts they have generated support and resources enabling them to provide stoves powered by the sun to Chad, where many Darfurians are living during the ongoing violence in Sudan.

In each annual celebration, Bobbie and George offer their guests traditional 4th of July barbeque food, books and toys for the children, and a place to gather for all Darfurians. Many of the guests in attendance bring traditional side dishes that originated in their country. Together, the group plays games to learn English and sing American themed songs, while the children play in the lake.

Bobbie Gordon explained how her favorite aspect of this event is “everybody’s exuberance and happiness” despite how the country of Sudan is currently in turmoil with tragedies occurring daily. Each of the immigrants in attendance have their own unique story in their journey to America.

“Look at the spirit, despite what is happening in the country right now,” she said.

The atmosphere was incredibly welcoming and gracious. At one point, Arafah, an immigrant from Darfur, who now works as a mathematician, rushes up to hug her, both with smiles on their faces that stretch from ear-to-ear.

In an instant, it is clear to see the effect that the Gordons have had on so many individuals. Throughout the party, many people kept coming up to her to express their gratitude for the influential environment she has been able to create and maintain.

One man in attendance named Abu, had immigrated to the United States from Sudan. He spent two years in Jordan, before coming to America, and has currently been here for eight years. He said that his first year in the U.S. was incredibly difficult for him. He did not speak English very well, and it was an entirely different and foreign culture.

Abu shared how that had all changed when he met El-Fadel Arbab, the Community Outreach Coordinator for the Fur Cultural Revival, and someone Bobbie Gordon had mentored. Following this introduction, Abu was introduced to the community of Darfurian immigrants right here in Maine. He discussed how this group significantly helped him feel more comfortable, and entirely changed his experience in the U.S.

When reflecting on what these July 4th celebrations mean to him, he said, “I feel like one of the people. I feel the freedom and the happiness.”

Since 2003, it’s estimated that 2.7 million Darfuri have been displaced from their homes in Darfur, a region of west Sudan. Hundreds of thousands have sought refuge in refugee camps throughout Africa, after fleeing what has been called a campaign of ethnic cleansing and genocide directed at non-Arab groups in Darfur. Some have applied for and gone through the legal process of becoming American citizens, settling here in Maine.

Zahra, another person the Gordons have mentored, talked about how her children have found success in the US. One has graduated from Bowdoin College, another is currently attending the University of West Virginia as a Division 1 soccer player, and two are grade-school students at Waynflete Academy in Portland. Zahra said she is extremely grateful for the opportunity that she and her children have had since being in the U.S.

As for future gatherings, Bobbie Gordon says she will be continuing her inspirational efforts, and has plans to jumpstart a one-on-one teaching program for Darfurian immigrants to learn English and become acclimated to their new lives in Maine. Her group also plans to establish a curriculum for her lessons offered to Darfurian immigrants and is hoping to begin offering swimming lessons.

Gordon said that she believes volunteering to tutor and mentor immigrants is a great way to become one community, while encouraging Americans to find a way to help the cause in any way that they can.

Each individual attending this July 4th celebration in Raymond was radiating with positive energy. The magic of this event transcends cultural differences and has brought people together from another part of the world to appreciate the freedom that we have in the United States. <

Mullins steps down from Sebago Lakes Chamber leadership role

By Ed Pierce

As President/CEO of the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, Robin Mullins has poured her heart and soul into promoting the community and local businesses but as it’s been said before, every good thing must eventually come to an end.

Robin Mullins is stepping down from
her position as President/CEO of the
Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of
Commerce after five years of leading the
organization. FILE PHOTO
Mullins, who has led the chamber since 2019, will step down from her chamber position to focus on her new role as Marketing Manager for Octagon Cleaning & Restoration in Windham.

“Now seems like the right time to leave my chamber President/CEO role as I was offered a position too good to turn down,” Mullins said. “It was hard turning down no more nights or weekends for a bit more money and a company car. What I love about my current role is all of the relationships I have built and the marketing I have done for the region. In my new position I will do what I love and continue to build and foster relationships, and instead of marketing hundreds of businesses in eight communities, I will be able to focus all of my efforts on just one company.”

She said she has worked for Octagon before, so she knows the business.

“The coolest part is that it is a family business and my family,” Mullins said. “My brother and sister-in-law, Robert and Kathy York, own the business and my dad, nephew and cousin all work there.”

She grew up in Windham and graduated from Windham High School in 1986. Although she earned a degree in elementary education, Mullins has spent most of her career working for Hannaford Supermarkets in both retail and corporate environments. She worked 22 years at Hannaford and the company paid for Mullins to obtain a master’s degree in training and development while giving her experience in every aspect of human resources management.

Mullins left Hannaford to spend more time with her family and then became the part-time HR Director for Octagon Cleaning & Restoration. She later joined the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce as its part-time office manager and in 2019, Mullins assumed the full-time role as SLRCC’s President/CEO. Her last day leading the chamber will be July 12.

SLRCC Board Chair Jonathan Priest said that Mullins has left an indelible positive stamp upon the chamber.

“I am excited for her in her new role, but I know we will all miss her boundless energy, her giant heart, and her passion for the people and businesses of our region,” Priest said. “She has worked tirelessly during her time with the chamber to support our area businesses, grow our membership, expand chamber member benefits, boost attendance at our Business Breaks, and raise money for worthy causes like Feed the Need.”

Priest said that her membership in various organizations like MAACE, the Gray New Gloucester Optimist Club and the Sebago Lake Rotary Club allowed her positive energy, sharp mind and articulate voice to be seen and heard by business owners, state and federal representatives and community leaders. And, he said that Mullins attended many trainings and conferences to make sure she always had the most accurate and up-to-date information for the chamber board and communities she served.

For her efforts on behalf of the chamber, Mullins was honored last fall as the 2023 Maine State Chamber Professional of the Year.

According to Mullins, her family including husband John and daughters Cassidy and Ainsely, are proud of what she’s accomplished during her time working for the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce and excited about her new job.

The people are what Mullins says that she will the most about working for the chamber.

“I have an amazing Office Manager, Denise Dyer. I will miss working with her every day. I will miss the SLRCC Board of Directors, especially our Board Chair, Jonathan Priest,” she said. “But you know, as I think about it, I am not going that far away. I will still be in Windham. Octagon is a member of the chamber, so I'll still participate in chamber events. And all of those relationships I have will not go away. They will just change. Don't get me wrong, I do not wish water or fire damage on anyone. However, if it should happen, I know an amazing restoration company that can take care of anyone I have come to know and adore in my role as chamber President/CEO.”

Above everything else, Mullins says the thing she’s learned the most about herself from her time working for the chamber is fundamental.

“I hate to sound like a broken record, but it is all about relationships. I have learned how much relationships mean and how the relationships I formed in the past continue to benefit me today,” she said. “I have always told my girls to be nice to everyone and to never burn bridges. You never know when someone will come back into your life and how you might need them or they you. So many of the people I have known from other roles in my life have proven to be extremely valuable in my chamber President/CEO position and will continue to be in my new role as Marketing Manager at Octagon Cleaning & Restoration.” <

Friday, July 5, 2024

Windham athlete finishes seventh nationally in Triple Jump competition

By Kaysa Jalbert

Many are familiar with the term “adulting” to describe the mundane responsibilities that make up the daily life of an adult, but there’s not a term to describe the lives of teenagers whose days are packed with classes, homework, practices, and work, while maintaining a social life and preparing for their futures full of adulting. Some call this overachieving, but in the eyes of most teens today, it’s simply what it means to be a teen.

Tayla Pelletier of Windham High School
finished seventh in the nation in the triple
jump at the Adidas Nationals at North
Carolina Agricultural and Technical State
University in Greensboro, N.C. in June
after winning the Maine state
championship and the New England 
championship this spring. She will be
a senior at WHS this fall.
COURTESY PHOTO  
Tayla Pelletier is one of these busy teens, as a soon-to-be senior at Windham High School, an honors student, working two part-time jobs and on top of it all, a competitor in the National Track and Field Championships. To her, all of this is what it means to be trying your best.

Earlier this spring, Pelletier won the Triple Jump event at the Maine State Championships at Thornton Academy on Saturday June 1 and went on to win the New England Championships at the University of New Hampshire on Saturday June 8 in the triple jump.

She then traveled out of state to compete in the Adidas Nationals at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro, North Carolina where she competed in the 100-meter hurdles, 400-meter hurdles and the triple jump events.

“Competing in sports has definitely shown how hard I can be on myself,” Pelletier said. “I set very high expectations and always strive to do my best.”

Leading up to competing for a title, Pelletier said she focuses her thoughts on trying her best and staying patient in the air and not getting upset with herself over a bad jump, but to instead focus on the next one.

When she’s not in school, or practicing her triple jump, she can be found at one of her two part-time jobs. Somedays she is serving scoops at the Ice Cream Dugout in Windham, and on other days she works at Beacon Pizza in Raymond.

Pelletier started working at the age of 15 during the summer of her sophomore year. She has held her job at the Ice Cream Dugout for three years and started working at two different jobs last year.

“I wanted to get my first job because I liked the idea of having my own money and being able to get the things I wanted by myself without parents help,” she said. “I wanted to be more independent and to rely less on my parents for everything especially with having five siblings.”

At this point, Pelletier says that she’s undecided in what she wants to do as a future career, but she is certain she wants to continue participating in track into college while studying.

Pelletier started competing in the triple jump during the spring season of her freshman year.

“What interests me most about track is the environment. The team supports one another, and even those you compete against are super friendly,” said Pelletier. “What I like most about being an athlete is the goals I am able to set for myself, and the team and coaches who push me to and support me with achieving these goals.”

Pelletier says that balancing two jobs, school and sports can be a lot at times, especially while taking anatomy and physiology, and honors classes, and there is a lot of work that comes with it.

“My weeks are busy, and nights can be long but it’s all worth it in the end,” she said. “Having a busy schedule can be exhausting, but you just have to find a way to manage it all. And when you get days off then you need to enjoy them and use them as a day off and one to relax.”

Ever since she got into track Tayla has started watching past Olympic competitions or world track and field meets. Through this, she said she gathers a sense of how she can improve on her form and gain inspiration to keep working and never stop giving it her all.

“I enjoy competing because it allows me to not only prove myself but it’s something I can control,” said Pelletier. “I enjoy the competition and have found a lot of joy in this sport and am always looking forward to meet days, especially when it comes to the competition. This fuels my energy and as long as I have the right mindset, I know I can perform.”

She says competing at the Adidas Nationals was a great experience, and she was happy with her times in both the 100-meter hurdle and 400-meter hurdle events, considering it was her first time running the 400-meter hurdles. As for her triple jump, she started the event seeded ninth and came out of finals placed seventh overall. Pelletier attended the Adidas Nationals in North Carolina accompanied by her mom and grandmother.

At home, Pelletier’s hard work makes her a role model for her two sisters and three brothers, all younger than she is.

“My siblings are extremely supportive and are always excited to know how I do,” she said. <

Racing remains at forefront for Windham’s Derek Kneeland

By Ed Pierce

For Windham auto racer Derek Kneeland, the only way to define your limits is by going beyond them.

Kneeland, 38, continues to be a busy man in auto racing this year, trying to find time to race his own car at local tracks, driving part-time for Mike Bryant Racing in super late model select events, and serving as a spotter for Kyle Busch, Austin Hill xfinity, Nick Sanchez trucks in NASCAR events.

Derek Kneeland of Windham has been racing since he was
8 and now works for Richard Childress Racing as a 
spotter in NASCAR events. He also finds time to compete
on local tracks in his super modified racecar, finishing fifth
in a race at Lee USA Speedway in New Hampshire
on June 22. COURTESY PHOTO   
Racing runs in Kneeland’s blood as his father Jeff competed in the 1970s and his grandfather was the general manager of Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough at one time. Derek started racing go-karts when he was 8 years old, and it ignited a dream of one day taking the checkered flag at a NASCAR race.

As costs to compete in NASCAR rose sharply, Kneeland found another avenue to become involved at that level and he took on the job as a spotter during a race in Pennsylvania 16 years ago. Those spotter duties grew over time and Kneeland now has served as a spotter for drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series, the NASCAR Xfinity Series, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the ARCA Menards Series.

“Bristol is my favorite race as a spotter,” Kneeland said. “It’s busy, there’s a lot going on, a lot of information, it’s loud and an exciting environment. Keeping up with the differences in divisions I spot is the hardest thing, different drivers, different vehicles, the job itself is still the same, give info, and try to describe the things I see the best way I can to be a valuable asset to my drivers and teams.”

He is currently working for Richard Childress Racing as a spotter and typically is out on the road for 38 weeks every year. That can be an exhausting schedule and doesn’t leave much time, but he is planning on racing his own car this summer at Lee Speedway in New Hampshire on July 26, Oxford Speedway in Maine on Aug. 4, Berlin Raceway in Michigan on Aug. 7, and possibly the Oxford 250 on Aug. 25 and the Snowflake 100 at Five Flags Speedway in Florida.

As a NASCAR spotter, Kneeland relays information to the driver of the team he works for, keeping them alert of what is occurring on the track. To get a complete look at the racetrack, he is usually positioned on top of one of the grandstands or support buildings.

“For me I think the hardest part is I don’t get to race weekly like most do because of traveling around the country working my NASCAR duties, so there are a few things I need to clean up to figure out such as how to go faster and be better as a driver. And money obviously, it takes a lot of money to race these cars and be competitive.”

He said racing his own car is more of a hobby than something he calls his career.

“I love it, done it since I was 8 years old,” Kneeland said. “I’m just fortunate to be able to do it a handful of times a year with my busy schedule.”

According to Kneeland, his greatest fans are his family, including his wife, Carley, his two stepsons Kolby and Logan, his parents Jeff and Kelly Kneeland, and his sister, Tasha.

He said all his family and friends have been supportive of his life in racing.

“My dad and my cousin Rusty Poland and my good buddy, Nick Brown, we all work together on my car and Rusty’s,” Kneeland said. “It’s definitely a family sport. My parents and my wife every weekend tune into the NASCAR app to listen to me spot for my drivers as well. They love it all whether it’s getting to watch me behind the wheel or listen to me do my job on a weekly basis.”

His proudest moments in racing include his first Cup win at Michigan with Kyle Larson, being a part of an Xfinity championship with Tyler Reddick and a Superspeedway win with Kyle Busch.

His career as spotter has taken him to NASCAR tracks all over the nation and as a driver, Kneeland has raced in Maine, New Hampshire, Michigan, North Carolina, and Florida. He says the biggest race he’s competed in is the Oxford 250 because he raced against NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski in that event.

“I still have a couple things left to check off my list,” Kneeland said. “And they are tough ones. A cup championship and a Daytona 500 win.” <