BAR HARBOR, Maine — Independence Day came a day early this weekend to Mount Desert Island as celebration organizers, hoping to make their holiday events easier to attend, decided to hold many of them on Saturday.
And what a day it was. The sun was out, a light breeze blew in from the sea, and the temperature hovered around 70 degrees.
Bar Harbor’s annual Fourth of July parade and fireworks usually draw people from all over eastern Maine, and the weather helped ensure that Saturday’s events were no different.
“Beautiful weather always helps,” Sharon Broom, spokeswoman for the Mount Desert Island Rotary Club, said Saturday afternoon just before sitting down at the town ball fields to a lunch of lobster and corn on the cob.
The local Rotary Club puts on a pancake breakfast and lobster lunch fundraiser across from the local YMCA on Park Street every Independence Day. Broom said the group tries to raise between $17,000 and $20,000 with the Fourth of July meals each year. The fundraiser, which is the biggest annual event for Rotary, raises money for community service projects and grants that the group awards to other local nonprofit organizations, she said.
Broom did not know how much money was raised Saturday, but said they were busy and saw a lot of return customers at both meals.
“I think we’ve done well,” she said. “It feels like we had a good day.”
The parade and fireworks are the event’s biggest draws, with this year’s fireworks scheduled for Sunday evening.
The Saturday morning parade featured many familiar participants, including the Anah Shriners who raced along the streets in go-carts. Some carts were decorated to resemble lobster boats or tractor-trailers, while others zipped up a specialty ramp that carried them over a sport utility vehicle as it rolled down the street.
The usual firetrucks, bands and marchers from organizations such as MDI Biological Laboratory or Hancock County political groups also marched in the parade. Gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler and district attorney candidate Steve Juskewitch, both independents, walked separately along the parade route and waved to the crowd.
The parade served as a chance for some marchers to draw attention to causes or controversial issues. As they do each year, a group of anti-war activists slowly beat a large drum and carried banners listing the names of U.S. military personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Another group, to draw attention to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and to contrast with the parade’s theme of “America the Beautiful,” wore fancy evening clothes as they walked down the streets. Men in suits walked behind women in the group who were dressed as beauty pageant queens from Gulf Coast states. The men poured brown goo onto the women’s heads from buckets labeled “crude oil.”
Farther behind in the parade column, a man carried a sign that said, “America will be beautiful when Maine ends torture in its prisons.”
After all the patriotic and protest marchers completed the parade route, people walked back to the ball field for lunch or to visit many of the craft, food and other booths set up next to the YMCA or across the street.
One of the biggest draws at the ball field, as it is each year, were the lobster races, in which four banded lobsters are placed in parallel underwater lanes to see which one makes it to the far end first. Bets placed by observers on the race contestants go toward the YMCA.
“Barbara Bisque seems to be off to an early lead,” race announcer Jeff Dobbs said as the lobsters raced to a cheering crowd. “I don’t know what [the other three lobsters] are doing, but they’re not racing.”