In The News

Little Odessa? Maybe Not, but Bush-Putin Talks Lend This Resort a Russian Flavor

30maine.600.jpgKENNEBUNKPORT, Me., June 29 — For the first time in its 39-year history, the Clam Shack has translated its menu of fried clams and lobster rolls into Russian.

“It was hard to translate, because we have no such food” in Russia or her native Belarus, said Kate Golushko, a Clam Shack employee who performed the task.

A Russian flavor has been injected into this seaside town in anticipation of a visit by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, who arrives Sunday for two days of talks with President Bush at the Bush family compound on Walker’s Point.

A Russian flag flies above the Clam Shack, which is supplying lobster and swordfish for the dinner the two leaders will share Sunday. Signs around town are scrawled in Cyrillic, and Russian vodka is being featured all over this tourist destination better known for seashells.

“No matter how we feel politically, it’s the chance of a lifetime,” said Holly Alwin, manager of the Arundel Wharf restaurant. “All this hubbub going around, it’s quite a thing.”

Ms. Alwin’s restaurant is serving two specialty cocktails to mark the visit: the Hootin’ Putin is a mixture of raspberry vodka, lemonade and iced tea, while the Putin Punch contains rum and fruit juice.

“I ordered one in honor of him being here,” said one resident, Mike Prevost, who enjoyed a Hootin’ Putin on the restaurant’s deck. “It can be a bit of a circus when you live in town when the whole entourage is here,” Mr. Prevost said of the Bush family and the attendant security and news media personnel, “and this is a way to lighten it up.”

To be sure, black Secret Service vehicles and throngs of reporters, photographers and camera crews are hardly new here. The first President Bush vacationed and entertained world leaders at the compound, while in office and afterward. And he and his wife, Barbara, are Kennebunkport fixtures, often spotted in town or, in Mr. Bush’s case, at the Cape Arundel Golf Club or fishing off Walker’s Point.

But this is the first time that the current president has entertained a foreign leader here, and so it is the first time in years that the town has gotten this much attention. That, coupled with the frostiness that has overtaken the Bush-Putin relationship, leads some to believe that this could be Kennebunkport’s biggest political event ever.

“I’ve seen a lot of dignitaries come through here, but this is the biggest we’ve ever seen,” said Brian Bartley, owner of Bartley’s Dockside Restaurant, where the chalkboard outside reads, “Kennebunkport Is Putin on the Ritz.” A few members of Mr. Putin’s advance team came in earlier this week for lobster and blueberry pie, Mr. Bartley said.

Andrei Enikeev, 21, who works at the Clam Shack, was born in Russia and moved to Maine with his mother at age 5. Wearing on his wrist a small Russian flag he had drawn in pen, he said his kin in Russia had been calling him and his mother all week.

“Our relatives are asking if we’re excited to see him,” Mr. Enikeev said. “My mom is bugging my boss to find out if he knows where Putin’s going to be, if he’s going out to dinner anywhere.”

Some residents, however, are less than enthusiastic about summer crowds here, much less the bustle of a Bush-Putin conference. Ashley Doane, a 25-year-old Manhattanite who grew up in Kennebunkport, said that while he understood a need for tourists, it would be nice to “come home and have my town quiet.”

It is anything but quiet this weekend. Between Mr. Putin’s visit, the Fourth of July holiday, a major youth soccer tournament and a spectacularly sunny weather forecast, hotels are booked solid.

On top of that, officials expect that a demonstration planned for Sunday afternoon will draw thousands. Organizers say it will protest the war in Iraq and Russia’s control of Chechnya.

Still, many are looking for Kennebunkport to maintain a laid-back vibe, and for it to rub off on the two leaders.

“Hopefully, there will be some good results,” said Pam Chute, who has a summer home in the nearby community of Ocean Park. “If it can happen anywhere, it will happen in Maine.”

The Clam Shack

2 Western Avenue,

Kennebunk, ME 04043

Phone. 207-967-3321