BANGOR, Maine — On any other Saturday morning in July, the antics of the Dexter Fire Department in the annual Greater Bangor Kiwanis Club Fourth of July parade might have been welcome.
Considering the intermittent raindrops that parade-goers and participants dodged Saturday, however, no one needed any more water, even if it was coming from the Dexter department’s antique handtub pumper.
Attendance seemed down a bit, but thousands of area residents still lined main thoroughfares in Bangor and Brewer for the Greater Bangor Kiwanis Club Fourth of July parade, which kicked off Independence Day celebrations.
Family barbecues may have been rained out or forced inside by sporadic showers early and a drenching rain late in the afternoon, but the parade and fireworks over the Penobscot River on Saturday night went off as planned.
Dozens of local organizations, businesses, and military and veterans groups participated in Saturday’s parade, which was preceded by the 29th annual Walter Hunt Memorial Fourth of July 3-kilometer road race. Spectators at West Market Square in downtown were treated to a performance from Kiwanian Darlene Logan and a group of singers who performed patriotic songs.
Among those organizations was the Dexter Fire Department, which demonstrated its old pump.
Firefighter Mike Gudroe said the department purchased the pumper in 1836 and it is one of the few in Maine still working. The hose cart the firefighters used dates back to 1816, he added.
It took 16 firefighters to run the mechanism, which involves filling the tub with water and pumping the water through a hose. The Dexter group demonstrated it 22 times Saturday, spraying water into the streets. People in the crowd who stood too close got some of the spray, too — as if anyone needed another way to get wet Saturday.
“We do it, rain or shine,” a sweaty Gudroe said after the pumper completed the parade route. “We get wet anyway, as you can see. But it’s a lot of fun.”
The pumper was followed by a modern-day tanker truck to refill the old pumper.
The parade was marked by a brief rain shower in Bangor at the 11 a.m. start in Brewer, and another sputtering of rain at about 12:30 p.m. The second shower was enough to start spectators moving toward their vehicles.
The skies remained gloomy and gray the entire morning.
Sarah Worcester of Bangor, who was standing near the intersection of Main and Water streets with her sons Jacob, 15, and Andrew, 12, said she didn’t mind the soggy weather.
“It’s important to come out for the Fourth, support people who fought for the country and cheer on the runners who do a good job,” Sarah Worcester said. “If they’re going to do it, we should cheer them on.”
Gov. John Baldacci, U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud all marched in the parade, which started on Wilson Street in Brewer, went across the Joshua Chamberlain Bridge, down Main Street in Bangor, up State Street and turned right on Exchange Street, where it ended.
Michaud appeared later in the day at an event in Brewer. He said that Collins, Snowe and he flew to Eastport with the intention of marching in that town’s parade, but the plane was unable to land because of inclement weather.
On Saturday evening, thousands of people ventured back into downtown Bangor and Brewer to watch the fireworks from lawn chairs or vehicles.
The fireworks began about 16 minutes after the 9 p.m. scheduled start. Bangor police Sgt. Paul Edwards said in an 8:27 p.m. release the fireworks could be delayed because organizers were waiting for a weather window in which to set off the display.
The show lasted 11 minutes.
Hundreds of onlookers gathered on the roof area of Hollywood Slots’ four-level parking structure. The facility offered free parking for fireworks watchers.
Francis and Susan Robinson of Dover-Foxcroft drove to Bangor for the day and spent some time at Hollywood Slots. The weather made them unsure whether they would stay for the fireworks, but they made their way to the parking structure’s roof anyway.
“We heard it was raining, so we thought maybe the show wasn’t going on,” Susan Robinson said. “We came out at 8:30 [p.m.] and thought we could stay because the weather was holding off. I enjoyed it. I thought it was a good show and there was a good finish.”
Central Maine Pyrotechnics of Hallowell was in charge of the display.