WATERVILLE — L.L. Bean’s iconic all-weather boot now has a set of all-weather tires.

On Sunday, Waterville got its first glimpse of the new LL. Bean Bootmobile, glistening with light rain outside Gifford’s Ice Cream stand on Silver Street. The promotional stop was part of the outdoor outfitter’s year-long 100th anniversary celebration, which includes a fundraising campaign for the National Park Foundation.

The Bootmobile — a Ford F-250 encased in molded fiberglass — was designed and built for L.L. Bean by Echo Arts, a company in Kissimmee, Fla., and it resembles the signature boots that are manufactured in Brunswick. The Bootmobile was delivered to L.L. Bean in January and has since logged 13,000 miles throughout the Northeast and Midwest United States and Maine.

The Bootmobile is driven by Kevin Smith and Eric Smith, who are not related. Since they were hired in June, they have logged 7,000 miles during trips to Chicago, New York City and Washington, D.C., and L.L. Bean stores at locations in between.

“It handles wonderfully,” said Kevin Smith, 52, a former Baxter State Park ranger who lives in Augusta. “People look at it and think it might be top heavy, but we’re not finding that to be true. It’s a fun vehicle and people love it. Everywhere we go, people wave at us.”

The Bootmobile is more than 20 feet long, 7 feet wide and 13 feet tall, which is lower than most trailer trucks. At the heel of the boot is a storage compartment with standing room through the upper. As the Smiths drive to events, their global positioning satellite receiver sometimes routes them in strange directions to avoid low-clearance areas, they said.

“It’s a lot easier to maneuver than people think,” said Eric Smith, 35, a former camp director who lives in Portland. “It’s got great visibility because it narrows at the back. You can kind of see all the way around it with the mirrors, plus there’s a back-up camera.”

Troopers from Maine State Police personally inspected the truck and approved its roadworthiness, Eric Smith said. As a commercial vehicle, however, the Bootmobile was not allowed on parkways in and around New York City, so they took the long way downtown.

“We drove on Broadway from 165th Street to 23rd Street,” Eric Smith said. “So, in 140 blocks we saw at least 50,000 people all taking photos or pointing at us.”

As drivers of the unusual truck, they also get to see the immediacy of social media, almost like celebrities, they said.

“Somebody snapped a photo of us on Park Avenue, and by the time we had driven 20 blocks, the photo already had 5,000 ‘likes’ and 249 comments on Facebook,” Eric Smith said. “We understand it’s not us. It’s the Bootmobile. We just happen to be the guys inside it.”

Mal Dawson and his wife of 34 years said they drove from their home in Belgrade just to see the Bootmobile at Gifford’s on Sunday.

“It’s certainly an iconic symbol of what’s good about Maine,” he said.

Dawson said he has gotten 40 years of use from two pairs of the boots.

“They’re made in America. They’re made in Maine. They’re durable and they’re good. They mean a lot to a lot of different people on different levels,” he said.

Shanna Friend, manager of Gifford’s Waterville stand, said the creamery has partnered with L.L. Bean to create a new flavor, Muddy Bean Boots, which combines vanilla ice cream with caramel and brownie bits to resemble the colors of the boot. The flavor, which is a permanent addition to Gifford’s line of products, is currently available its five locations, and will be available in retail stores early next month.

Although the Bootmobile appears irreverent, it has a serious purpose, Eric Smith said. It is raising awareness and money for children’s programs at the National Park Foundation in a campaign called the Million Moment Mission. Every time a photo of the Bootmobile is posted to L.L. Bean’s Facebook page or appears on Twitter with the hashtag Bootmobile, the company will donate $1 to the foundation, up to $1 million. As of Sunday, there had been 901,000 “moments,” he said.

In 1911, sportsman Leon Leonwood Bean invented the rubber-bottomed boot after a hunting expedition. The design was later patented and the boots were sold by mail order. The fledgling company evolved into a nationally renowned outdoor outfitter, with its flagship store in Freeport.

Ben McCanna — 861-9239

[email protected]

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.