May 25, 2018
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In difficult times, HOPE Festival certainly lives up to its name

By Joni Averill

Once the sun starts shining regularly, we will be reinvigorated and filled with hope that the gloom and doom of national, state and local events that seem to have been casting a shadow over us for the past few months, has truly been lifted.

There may be no better way to celebrate spring and a renewed faith in who we are than by attending the free,17th annual HOPE Festival from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 30, at the University of Maine Student Fitness and Recreation Center on the Orono Campus.

The HOPE Festival, which stands for Help Organize Peace Earthwide, is held to extend the celebration of Earth Day, which is Friday, April 22.

Highlights of this year’s festival include a David Mallett concert, keynote talk by Jim Merkel, author of “Radical Simplicity,” the new, Hula Hoop for HOPE, the HOPE Festival Singers directed by Marty Kelly of Orono and an opportunity for nonprofit organizations that are participating in the festival to apply for a grant of up to $1,000 from the Joe Hill Fund, which supports social change efforts in Maine.

Children will enjoy the juggling of Zachary Field and several other activities just for them.

By way of emphasizing what a great, extended community event the HOPE Festival is, today I focus our attention on some of the volunteers who make it possible.

Program coordinator Ilze Petersons of the host Peace & Justice Center of Eastern Maine in Bangor was kind enough to supply me with some background information about the festival, which I found very impressive.

“One of the most inspiring things about the HOPE Festival are the many volunteers who donate their time, talent and expertise to make the day possible,” Ilze said.

Lauren Wagner, for example, is a VISTA volunteer at the UMaine Bodwell Volunteer Center.

“Lauren has been terrific,” Ilze said.

“She has reached out and gotten students” at the university to help with setup, cleanup, greeting participants, working with the children’s program and much more.

Mary Phillips of Hudson and Anna Sweeney of Ellsworth “have been reaching out to area high and middle schools” to get those young people to volunteer,  “and we’ve gotten good response. That’s what is so encouraging,” Ilze said.

Despite the current life distractions, “in the midst of all this, I think the values we all share with each other means we can have hope.”

Cami Carter helped coordinate an Orono-Old Town youth group who collated 7,000 fliers that were delivered to schools by Suzanne Kelly of Bangor.  Suzanne Brunner of Bangor has been coordinating the Peace & Justice Center food concession.

“It’s such a team effort,” Ilze said, adding that Kay Carter of Hampden assists with volunteer coordination and contributed “her artistic skills to design our poster.”

For 10 years, Anne Hayes-Grillo of Penobscot has been in charge of the children’s program. She works with Maine Discovery Museum, Windover Arts and the Maine Audubon Center to help with those activities.

Area farmers were contacted by Ryan Parker of Parker Produce in Newburgh to be part of the festival food court.   UMaine student Gordon Edwards coordinates all the recycling, working with members of the student group Sustainable Agricultural Enthusiasts, or SAgE.

Suzanne Philip of Heart-n-Soul Message Therapists “has volunteered to do chair massage throughout the day,” Ilze said, adding that the festival-concluding Hula Hoop for HOPE should be lots of fun.

Marty Kelly and Suzanne Kelly are overseeing that activity, in which folks will hula hoop until the last hoop drops.

Participants are encouraged to get pledges to help support the work of the Peace & Justice Center of Eastern Maine.

The winner of the Joe Hill Fund award, by the way, will be decided before the event ends, Ilze said.

“What they are looking for is an organization that works to keep wealth, created by Mainers, in Maine, and distributing wealth more equitably in Maine,” she said of its mission.

“The very first one went to a young person, from Hampden, who had created a ‘green team’ at his high school, and they gave him money to build on that.”

As for the mission of the HOPE Festival, that’s simple, Ilze told me.

It is “to have hope, have fun and to remind each other of the wonderful, caring community that we have that can help get us through hard times.”

Joni Averill, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402;; 990-8288.

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