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Celebrating the 20th Bucksport Bay Festival

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BUCKSPORT - This year’s Bucksport Bay Festival is celebrating the town's 225th anniversary with the slogan “Come celebrate with us.” According to the Bucksport Bay Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Leslie Wombacher, the slogan is a perfect fit considering what the town has gone through. 

Three years ago, the Bucksport paper mill shut down. This year’s t-shirt for the festival includes a logo and a phrase - “We believe in Bucksport.” After the mill closed, a local business created the logo and the saying. The local arts society in Bucksport created posters and hung them around the entire town.

“We thought it would make sense to use that logo on the shirts to celebrate 225,” said Wombacher. “People still have them [the posters] hanging in their windows.”

Since the mill closed, the town of Bucksport has responded differently than other towns in similar circumstances, Wombacher said.

“Bucksport is … unique and different, and it is not us that believe that. We have been recognized by the state and [at] the federal level. They come and they talk to us a lot because things happen differently here. People did not roll over, they stood up. They organized and they got excited. They made stuff happen in our town.”

The Bucksport Bay Festival originated 20 years ago as a way for the mill to say thanks to the town. The festival struggled - as did the town – following the mill closure.

“Everyone was struggling,” said Wombacher. “Over the years I have been here, we have tried to make it more about Bucksport itself. That proved to be a good plan without knowing five years ago the mill was gonna go away.”

Since the mill closed, the town of Bucksport has added two convenience stores and a variety of other businesses. One of those is the Lighthouse Arts Center which features an art gallery and also offers art classes.  “I have lived here for 15 years and there's more traffic in this town then their every has been before,” said Wombacher. “In three years time, it is a very different feeling here.”

This year’s Bucksport Bay Festival was able to add more activities thanks the town helping the chamber, according to Wombacher. The entertainment features a performance from the Mallett Brothers at 7 p.m. on Saturday; comedian Tin Sample precedes them on the stage at 6 p.m.

Other new activities include a street dance on Friday night – it has been 20 years since Main Street was closed for a dance, according to Wombacher – and the Friars’ Invitational Brewfest on Saturday afternoon starting at 1:30 p.m. Local legend Timber Tina runs her lumberjack show twice on Saturday; there’s also a bass tournament taking place throughout the day on Sunday.

The festival also will include a pizza faceoff at noon on Saturday thanks to the help of Camden National Bank. People will pay to try local pizzas and will be voting to crown a champion. Fifty percent of the decision goes to the voters while the other fifty percent is determined by judges.

Returning activities include the annual 5k, starting at 8 a.m. on Saturday at the local pool (people will be able to jump in after they complete the race) and the Dingy Races - kayak races where a blindfolded person in a kayak is navigated by another person – on Sunday afternoon.

“Most of the activity happens in down town. It brings in different kind of people to the area,” said Wombacher. “If you can’t find something you like to do I got nothin’ for you.

“There is not the one central theme to it. It is just a party, just a festival. It’s truly a party to look at what we did. To say that we’re all still here. That we have all these [new] things.” 

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