Merrill prepares for centennial celebration

Posted Aug. 10, 2010, at 9:45 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 11:53 a.m.

MERRILL, Maine — It has been 100 years since this tiny community was incorporated in southern Aroostook County, and residents and visitors will gather this weekend to commemorate the town’s birthday with a jam-packed schedule of activities.

The Merrill Centennial Celebration will begin Aug. 13 and wraps up Aug. 15. The ceremony, which has been planned by a host of volunteers for close to two years, will commemorate the incorporation of the community of 250 people by Capt. William Merrill.

Town Manager Candy Nevers has been heavily involved in planning the festivities. The centennial will focus on honoring veterans, a theme that Nevers said is important to the planning committee.

“Without our veterans who have served and those who continue to serve, we would not have a town or a reason to celebrate,” she said Tuesday, adding that historical documents prove that Merrill has sent a multitude of men and women to every war beginning with the Civil War.

The festivities kick off 6:30 p.m. Friday with opening remarks and a play at the Smyrna Merrill Historical Society. Additional events begin early Saturday, with a Centennial Breakfast beginning at 7 a.m. at the historical society. A parade begins at 10 a.m. at the Bethel Pentecostal Church on the Oakfield Smyrna Road and goes to the Merrill Millstream Park on Route 212. The Veterans of Frank B. Holden Legion Post 52 will be grand marshals of the parade. Nevers said a Fireman’s Muster with local fire departments starts after the parade on the White Lot beside the park.

Children’s events will take place throughout the day, and one girl’s bike and one boy’s bike, both with helmets, will be given away at 2:45 p.m. Children must be present to win, according to Nevers.

She added that a unique historical feature, Captain Merrill’s Pioneer Village and overnight campout, will be held Saturday and Sunday at the park. The village will feature re-enactors telling historical stories to visitors. Face painting, a military flag-folding ceremony and a chicken barbecue will be held at the park on Saturday.

Concerts featuring local musicians will begin at the park at 2 p.m. Saturday and continue throughout the evening.

On Sunday, antique autos will be on display all day in the park beginning at 10 a.m.

An awards ceremony will take place Sunday, with awards going to the oldest resident, the longest- and newest married couples, the first baby born in Merrill in 2010 and numerous other accolades.

A flag-folding ceremony will close the ceremony at 4 p.m. Sunday.

Numerous other activities will be held throughout the weekend in the park.

“We have really put together 2½ days of fun,” Nevers said Tuesday. “The centennial committee has worked so hard on this, and we have so many people who are looking forward to it.”

Nevers said the celebration really kicked off last year when townspeople joined together to begin preparing Merrill Millstream Park for the centennial. Volunteers have spent hours clearing the park of brush and weeks landscaping the grounds, planting trees and shrubs, and creating a rock garden.

“Before all of this work began, the park really looked like a place that had been forgotten,” she said. “Now, it is a beautiful part of our community. A good portion of the town has been involved in preparing the park, and people and businesses have donated money to the project. Businesses also have donated employee labor to help us.”

Signs of the town’s founder’s life in the community are still visible, according to Nevers. William Merrill, a sea captain, and his sons built the first frame set of buildings in the area and occupied the land and buildings for 10 years before moving on. The homestead and its buildings still stand, and descendants of William Merrill still live in neighboring Smyrna.

Most of this weekend’s events are free, and Nevers said organizers are encouraging everyone to take part in the events.

“It’s really going to be a great time,” she said Tuesday.

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