By Dave Sherwood
BOWDOINHAM, Maine (Reuters) - The owner of an idyllic Maine country inn valued at $905,000 has plans to give it all away to the winner of an essay contest she launched early this year.
Applicants must be eager to run the business and convey their qualifications in an impeccably crafted, but spare, 200-word essay, the owner of the Center Lovell Inn and Restaurant, Janice Sage, said on Monday.
Sage, who first launched her contest in January on Facebook, said in an interview that she aims to garner as many as 7,500 paid submissions by May 17th.
At $125 per entry, that would be enough to cover the estimated value of the 210-year old facility, plus an additional $20,000 for the next owner.
"There are a lot of talented people that can't, just can't, go out and buy an inn like this," she said. "Now all they need to do is write and convince me."
The hotel, together with a barn built in 1895 and other outbuildings, is located about 55 miles northwest of Portland and offers sweeping views of New Hampshire's snow-capped mountains.
Sage, who has run the inn for 22 years, will select the top 20 essays then pass them on to two unnamed local residents to judge the finalists and select a winner.
Other than the contest rules, vetted by Maine authorities and available online, Sage said she is not giving out any hints to help guide applicants.
There is some fine print.
The winner, Sage said, must agree to operate the business for one year following transfer of ownership, and will keep the inn painted its traditional white, with green or black roofing and shutters.
Even the idea for the contest is rooted in tradition, she said.
Sage herself took ownership of the inn in 1993, after she won a similar essay contest launched by the previous owner.
"I came here on angel's wings," she said. "I hope I can do the same for someone else."
(Editing by Scott Malone and Susan Heavey)