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Annual Fourth of July fundraiser kicks off

June 11, 2019
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Annual Fourth of July fundraiser kicks off (edge file photo by Kevin Bennett)

BANGOR – The Greater Bangor 4th of July Corporation kicked off its annual campaign last week to raise funds for the Independence Day parade, charity concert and fireworks display. And this year, organizers say major changes are in store for this year’s celebration that spans the cities of Bangor and Brewer.

The day’s events will begin with the annual Bangor Breakfast Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast at the Brewer Auditorium. A favorite for parade-goers, the breakfast runs 7-10 a.m. and will cost $6 for adults and $3 for children aged 12 and under.

Described as “Maine’s Fastest Road Race,” the 39th Annual Walter Hunt Memorial 3-K Race will kick off at 10:45 a.m. Participants can sign up beforehand at www.sub5.com or the morning of race at the Brewer Auditorium until 10;15 a.m. Costs for participating in the event are $15 per person or $45 for a family of four. T-shirts will be given to the first 300 registrants, and several awards will be given.

According to Doug Damon, the organization’s parade chair, this year’s parade celebration will center on the communities of the Penobscot River valley with the theme “Celebrating the Heritage of the Penobscot River.”

“We’re looking forward to a good parade. The grand marshal will be the Orrington Historical Society, and they’ll be leading the parade in period dress with wagons and horses,” said Damon, a former state legislator and realtor with Realty of Maine. “Orrington was one of the first towns on the Penobscot River, and the Orrington Historical Society will be a welcome addition – they’re excited.”

When added to its western tributary, the Penobscot River is 264 miles long and second-only in total mileage to the Saint John. However, it represents the longest Maine-based river system – most of the Saint John’s mileage flows through the New Brunswick basin before emptying in the Bay of Fundy – and much of Maine’s cultural heritage of logging and commercial trade emanated from the communities and fisheries that were sustained by the watershed. Damon said this year was a good opportunity to celebrate the waterway’s heritage, and the addition of horse-drawn wagons will be a nice educational feature this year.

Damon added that the parade will also honor the area’s military veterans, as the nation itself celebrated last week the 75th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, France.

“Galen Cole and the Cole Land Transportation Museum has provided busses for veterans who can’t walk or get tired and can only walk part of the way,” Damon said. “That’s a huge thing – probably no other parade in Maine or even on the East Coast does that.”

Later that day, the Chords for a Cure concert is slated to begin around 6 p.m. According to Mike Fern, the organization’s president, musical acts will include When Particles Collide and the concert’s headliner The Stone Doctors, a Rolling Stones tribute band.

“We may end up adding a third act,” Fern said Monday. “Either way we plan on playing right up to the fireworks, and we’re grateful Ian Dickey, our music chair, continues to organize the day’s musical events.”

Fern, who is the publisher of The Maine Edge, said Dickey’s band, The Stone Doctors, has headlined the event for over eight years to raise funds for cancer research. Mark’s Music in Brewer has been the event’s sound and tech partner for five of those years.

“Mark Braveman and his company have done a great job with sound for both our concert as well as our reviewing stand during the parade, and we look forward to working with them again this year,” Fern added.

Last year’s fireworks display, which was praised by many to be the best one in years, will see the most changes this year as the launch site moves offshore onto a barge in the river. Fern said it will be the first time in nearly two decades that the display has been fired from the water, and much of that has to do with next year’s construction of a new retention basin under the waterfront park’s greenspace and a shrinking safety zone that has hindered the show in recent years.

“With the waterfront’s continued development, our safety zone has only gotten smaller and next year we lose it completely,” Fern explained, referring to the minimum safe distance required by the state’s Fire Marshal. “What this has led to is the use of smaller shells, which don’t fire very high into the air. By moving the launchers into the river, we can return to a larger display hundreds of feet in the air with the five- and six-inch shells we’ve used in the past.”

For boaters, this means the river corridor will close earlier than usual as the organization’s fireworks provider, Central Maine Pyrotechnics, will have to load the fireworks live on the barge.

“We used to close the river about an hour ahead of the scheduled display. Instead, we’ll have to close it about four or five hours before the show so Central Maine can load the shells into the launch equipment,” Fern said.

With additional costs of producing the fireworks display on the barge, which is being supplied by Maine Coast Marine and will be tugged up from Winterport, Fern said the day’s overall budget will increase dramatically this year and he set a fundraising goal of about $40,000. The budget the past few years has hovered around $25,000 and been covered by donations from area businesses and communities.

“There’s no doubt we’ll have additional expenses going forward by firing larger shells offshore, but we’re confident the community will step up to support it,” Fern said. “We’ve always had one of the best private/public partnerships in the state supporting the celebration of our nation’s independence, and expanding the fireworks display is going to be a great way to show it.”

(Editor’s Note: To help the 4th of July Corporation reach their goal of $45,000 for this year’s event, those business and individuals who donate will be listed each week in The Maine Edge. To make a contribution to this community event, send your check or money order payable to the 4th of July Corporation, C/O The Maine Edge, P.O. Box 2639, Bangor, ME, 04402-2639.)

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