June 12, 2011

Greater Gardiner River Festival includes carnival this year

GARDINER -- The Greater Gardiner River Festival, which traditionally kicks off the Whatever Family Festival every year, will start a few days early this year, with something new -- a carnival.

Anne Davis, who serves on the Greater Gardiner Riverfest Committee, said the 10-year-old festival will begin Wednesday with a carnival and fireworks.

"We've relied on the city for so, so long to support this event. It's a very expensive thing to put on," Davis said. "So this year we thought 'How can we make money to sustain the festival?'

"Steve Marson, who also serves on the committee and owns Central Maine Pyrotechnics, said, 'Whenever there's a carnival, you bring in huge crowds.' He said let's try it and if it doesn't work we won't do it again next year."

She said the carnival will be at the south end of the park and include eight rides and a midway with food vendors and games.

"It's not as huge as you'd find at a state fair, but certainly big enough to entertain everybody," she said.

The carnival, which opens in late afternoon and runs until about 9:30 p.m. will continue through Thursday.

Davis said fireworks will be shot from floats in the river at 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday and Saturday.

Marson said he is donating Wednesday's fireworks display.

"The city hasn't had a carnival in 40 years," Marson said. "Now that we have a completed park, we'll start holding events down there.

"The river festival has always been a one-day thing on Saturdays. But we want to make Gardiner a hub for people to come and visit and offer a whole bunch of different activities."

Marson said he also belongs to the Maine Agricultural Fair Association and knows how carnivals and fairs operate.

"So ultimately I took on the assignment to do everything I can to help the city of Gardiner bring people here," he said.

From 7 to 10 p.m. Thursday, Kate Violette & the Accoutrements will perform at the waterfront park. The School Street Band will be at park from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday.

On Saturday, the Gardiner Public Library will hold its annual book sale from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Christ Church will be hosting a bazaar during the sale and rental tables are still available. Call 582-3354 for more information.

On that same day, upper Water Street will be closed to traffic from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for the 10th Annual Gardiner Arts & Crafts Festival. The farmers' market will be set up along the river from noon until 4 p.m. and a Coast Guard cutter will be docked and open for tours all day.

Children will be able to create art projects to take home in the Johnson Hall mini-park. And the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Gardiner will be on hand from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. to help with games for children on Water Street near McKay Park.

Juggler and clown/comedian Michael Lane Trautman will entertain from 1:15 to 2:15 p.m. in the mini-park, followed by bluegrass and country music by Breakin' Strings, with Cliff Gelina.

The First Baptist Church at 47 Church St. will serve a casserole supper at 5 p.m. and Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center will hold a talent show at 6:30 p.m.

Davis said people won't want to miss this festival.

"Come to Gardiner and enjoy the beautiful waterfront, dine on some fabulous local cuisine and support our local arts and culture," Davis said. "Bring the whole family and stay for the day."

The Kennebec Valley's Whatever Family Festival includes events in Gardiner, Hallowell, Winthrop and Augusta.

Mechele Cooper -- 621-5663

mcooper@centralmaine.com

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