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This is Governor John Baldacci.

Whenever I travel on State business, I find that folks around the country and around the world have a special fondness for Maine.

Whether it’s our great skiing, ocean and beaches, world-class fishing and snowmobiling, the State’s natural beauty or our family-friendly attractions, people are attracted to Maine because we have so much to offer.

I lived away for eight years while I was serving in Congress, but my heart was never far from home. To me, we have everything right here, and that’s why I’m committed to protecting the things and places that make Maine special.

But I’m also committing to make sure that we spread the word.

On Monday, I signed a proclamation naming May 11 through May 18 as Tourism Week in Maine.

Tourism is one of the most important economic engines driving our State. The industry contributes more than $10 billion every year to Maine’s economy, and helps to create jobs for more than 140,000 people.

It’s our largest industry and is fundamental to the economic health of our State.

Maine is an incredible four-season destination for tourists and travelers and adventure seekers. This time of year, there’s an amazing opportunity for whitewater rafting enthusiasts on the Dead, Kennebec and Penobscot rivers.

Hurtling down Class 4 and Class 5 Rapids isn’t exactly my cup of tea. But for those who like an exciting and challenging run, Maine has plenty of opportunities.

The Penobscot Narrows Observatory opened this month.

It’s located at the top of the Penobscot Narrows Bridge. The observatory gives visitors and incredible view of the Penobscot River and Penobscot Bay.

But the views also come with a built in history lesson at Fort Knox, Maine’s largest historic fort. The fort was built in the mid-18 hundreds on the river’s narrows to protect the valley from naval attack. Troops were stationed there during both the Civil and Spanish American Wars.

The new bridge and the old fort show the very best of engineering from today and yesterday. It’s a great place to visit - ideal for a day-trip with the family from just about every place in the State of Maine.

In a couple of weeks on June 1, Portland will host its annual Old Port Festival. It’s a great event for families and adults. There’s live music, great food and activities for people of all ages.

That’s just the beginning. The calendar is full of special events and annual affairs. A full list is available at www.visitmaine.com.

Maine has a great tradition of attracting travelers. For hundreds of years, Maine has been a destination.

Our traditional sporting camps are world-renowned for their hospitality and the quality of the activities they provide. Maine has some of the best fishing in the world. Whether you’re looking at a salt water trip along the coast or premium salmon and bass hotspots, Maine has it.

While most of us certainly recognize Maine’s special qualities, we must remain vigilant in our efforts to protect them.

This year, my administration worked with the Legislature to help protect Maine’s historic places and revitalize our downtowns.

I received a report this month from Maine’s Quality of Place Council, which recommends ways to protect, invest and enhance our State’s distinctive qualities.

Our Main Streets, natural beauty and long traditions are part of our calling cards to the world. We have to take care of them.

Maine is a large and diverse state, and sometimes its easy for us to take for granted what we have right here at home.

Whether your tastes are the mountains or the beaches, the rivers or lakes, amusement parks, historic parks or golf courses, you can find it right here at home.

Have a great weekend, and enjoy Maine.

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