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‘North Woods Law’ star power fuels interest in Maine, warden profession

By John Holyoke

SKOWHEGAN, Maine — On a muggy July evening, Maine game warden Kris MacCabe swabbed sweat from his brow, sipped from a water bottle and leaned on the tailgate of his state-issued pickup truck.

In front of him, in a throng stretching all the way across the front of the Gifford’s Famous Ice Cream stand, a crowd waited for a brief opportunity to meet MacCabe and other stars of “North Woods Law,” an Animal Planet TV show that has been adopted as a favorite by viewers around the world.

“I’m gonna run out pretty soon,” he said, pointing to a rapidly dwindling pile of color mini-posters that he and his fellow wardens were autographing. “I’m gonna have to start signing cars pretty soon.”

Then he flashed that made-for-TV grin, gestured to the next person in line to step forward and indicated that if it came to it, he’d do just that.

“Line ‘em up,” he said with a chuckle.

Line up they did, some more enthusiastically than others.

Like 7-year-old Hunter Mills of Bingham, whose parents didn’t tell him that they were stopping at Gifford’s for more than a cone to celebrate the ice cream stand’s 35th anniversary.

Hunter is as big a “North Woods Law” fan. He swears that he wants to become a game warden when he grows up. And his favorite warden was standing just 10 feet away when his mom let him open his eyes, after leading him through the throng.

“We surprised him,” Jessica Mills said. “He was jumping up and down and being all smiles. He was all excited.”

She said that no matter where Hunter is, he always runs to the living room when the show is on.

“All my son has to hear is the tone, that music, and he automatically knows what show is on, and he runs out to the living room. [He yells], ‘Wardens!’” she said. “And he freaks out when [MacCabe] comes on the show. [He says], ‘I want to meet him. I want to be just like him.’”

On this hot, humid evening, it was tough to peel Hunter away from his idol. First, he posed for photos with MacCabe. Then he went to the front of MacCabe’s pickup truck, where he met Morgan, the warden’s K-9 partner.

Then he returned to MacCabe’s side, where he fanned the hot (take that however you want … his fans will) warden with one of the paper posters.

Some in attendance, such as Sarah Price of Ethos Marketing, were stunned by the crowd that showed up to see the wardens.

Price’s company does the marketing for Gifford’s, one of the state’s iconic ice cream companies. And despite staging various promotions for Gifford’s, she wasn’t really prepared for the scene that unfolded as hundreds of fans parked on the side of busy Route 201 and hiked down the hill to see their state’s very own TV celebrities.


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