Calais gears up for bicentennial celebration

Posted June 23, 2009, at 10:22 p.m.

CALAIS, Maine — The city turns 200 this year and a bang-up birthday party has been planned.

Volunteers have been working on the bicentennial celebration since last year with Frank Becker at the helm along with a lot of other dedicated folks.

Last year, the City Council allocated $5,000 for the project. Some of the money was left over from the 150 years celebration and a portion was allocated from the city’s economic development fund.

Also last year, the council passed a proclamation in support of the celebration.

According to the proclamation, Township No. 5, as the city was known in the 18th century, was granted by Massachusetts to Waterman Thomas on June 27, 1789, and the city was incorporated as a town on June 16, 1809.

Armchair historian Becker last year gave the councilors a short history of the city.

Its name was selected in the spring of 1806. “[The] principal reason for naming the settlement after a large city in France was to perpetuate the memory of the early French settlement on the St. Croix,” the Calais Advertiser reported at the time.

The City Council in 1809 was eager to celebrate the town’s incorporation. At a council meeting that year, the Calais Advertiser reported, the mayor suggested the city spend $500 on the festivities and the council approved the appropriation.

More than 1,000 invitations were mailed, including one to then-Gov. Bert M. Fernald. The day of the ceremony, the governor and his wife were met at Ayer’s Junction and were escorted into town to a 100-gun salute and the ringing of bells. Ten bands performed, including the 2nd Regiment Band of Bangor. There also was a grand parade that consisted of military and society organizations, historical, fancy and trade floats.

Some of the events held 200 years ago will be part of this year’s celebration.

On Friday, July 31, the schooner Sylvina Beal out of Eastport will arrive. “We will, hopefully, have a cannon salute to welcome her,” Becker said in an interview Tuesday.

The opening ceremony will be held at 2 p.m. that same day at Memorial Park on Main Street. The re-enactment of the first town meeting, which took place July 31, 1809, will be held at 3 p.m.

“We tried to get it to the minute. Actually, the first one was at 2 p.m. However, we are now at daylight savings time, so that makes it 3 p.m.,” he said.

A dedication of the New Veterans Memorial and the rededication of the Sailor’s Park fountain will follow the town meeting. For years, the fountain was in Marion Township, but has since been returned to Calais.

Because the bicentennial runs in tandem with the International Festival, which celebrates the rich history of Calais and neighboring St. Stephen, New Brunswick, the official opening of the International Festival will be held at 6 p.m. that day.

A weeklong series of events will follow, including the French-Indian and Revolutionary War Re-enactors and the 20th Maine Civil War Re-enactors. Some of the events will be held at the St. Croix International Site, where the French first landed in 1604.

There will be exhibits as well as presentations, including a literary presentation, Passamaquoddy basket weaving demonstrations and historical presentations.

The festivities will include an international and bicentennial parade to be held at noon Saturday, Aug. 8. The 195th Army Band Concert will be held at Memorial Park after the parade.

On Sunday, Aug. 9, there will be a firefighters muster at 11 a.m. and fireworks on the Calais Waterfront at dusk.

Becker said hats, T-shirts and other souvenirs will be sold to raise money to offset the cost of the bicentennial celebration.

To donate to the bicentennial celebration send a check to Calais City Hall at P.O. Box 413, Calais 04619.

For more information about events, dates and times, go to www.calaisevents.com.

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