ORLAND, Maine — Small town events tend to become traditions, and that certainly has been the case with the Orland River Day celebration.
For 35 years, the event, with its parade and wacky, homemade raft race along the Narramissic River, has become a staple start-of-summer activity in town. It started in 1976 as part of the nation’s bicentennial celebration and has continued with variations to today. The 35th edition will run this Saturday with a full day of events and evening street dance.
“Dave Davis and his family started this and they ran it forever,” said Alvion Kimball, who with his wife, Cindy, has organized the event for the past decade. “For the town’s 200th anniversary [in 2000] , they really had a big shindig that year. That’s when we came to town and we thought it was a big birthday celebration for the town.”
But, he said, it’s more than that.
“It’s really a town celebration of itself,” he said. “People really like Orland. And this has remained a small town festival.”
River Day attracts people to town, but the event has remained small because it has to, Kimball said. There’s not much room for it to grow, he said. The festival is focused on the Narramissic River and Narramissic Drive, the short section of road connecting Route 1 and the center of town on the Old County Road.
Many of the town’s organizations take part, including the scouts, the local United Methodist church, the historical society and the town office crew. More people are getting involved now, Kimball said, and taking over more of the organizing tasks, Kimball said.
There’s a parade that starts at 10 a.m. and runs through the village. This year the Grand Marshall is Millard Clement. At the end, there will be a short talk about the memorial erected at the Bicentennial Park in memory of Wayne Ames, the longtime Orland selectman who died last year. A formal dedication will be scheduled later this year.
A recent addition to the celebration, has been the Cannonballer contest. Organizers set up a plank over the river, and contestants who jump off are judged on style and both the biggest and smallest splash. That event begins at 11 a.m., followed by an awards ceremony.
The raft race, featuring a flotilla of homemade rafts, begins at 1 p.m. at the Davis Landing and runs along the river to the village.
There’s a kayak capsize and rescue demonstration by Castine Kayak, a chili contest, games at the elementary school building, along with food and merchandise vendors along the river. For early birds, there is the Alewife Eco Tour, a paddle from the Craig Brook National Fish Hatchery, down the river to the village.
The day winds up with a street dance dance beginning at 6:30 p.m.
For information, call 468-0077.