Eastport celebrates Independence Day with beauty pageant, cod fish relay race

Posted July 03, 2011, at 6:24 p.m.
Last modified July 03, 2011, at 7:48 p.m.

EASTPORT, Maine — “This is what the Fourth of July is supposed to be all about,” Wanda Relando, 68, from Toledo, Ohio, said as she walked along Water Street in Eastport on Moose Island Saturday afternoon.

Banners and flags crisscrossed over head, the smell of vendors’ offerings filled the air and despite a cool breeze coming off the ocean, Relando said she was having a ball. “This is like I remember as a child. The people, the flags, the fun.”

Water Street in Eastport was indeed fun — a street carnival atmosphere blended with the sophistication of dozens of art galleries and local shopping venues.

The street, which was closed to vehicles during the event, was choked with more than a hundred people enjoying the local beauty pageant, then a cod fish relay race.

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“Where else in the world can you see a girl dressed as a princess with a fluffy white gown and a tiara walking beside a lady in her underwear passing out fliers and two Marine Patrol Officers?” Relando said. “This is absolutely amazing.”

Even more people are expected to flow into the city on Monday for the traditional parade and fireworks display. Jon Southern, Eastport town manager, said Friday that every hotel and inn was full, and the USS Nitze, docked at the city’s breakwater, was bringing even more people to Moose Island.

Relando said she discovered Eastport on the Internet and came to Maine for her summer vacation with two other friends. “We found paradise,” she said. The trio had visited the USS Nitze, taken a whale-watching cruise, collected sea glass along the shore and visited every art gallery they could find.

Waiting in line at Dastardly Dick’s Wicked Good Coffee, John Simbolda of Glastonbury, Conn., said he has been to Eastport several times but never on the Fourth of July.

“They really just go all out here,” he said. “I can’t wait for tomorrow’s parade.”

Even a former town manager, Bud Finch, was spotted cruising the Water Street activities.

“I wasn’t going to come home for the Fourth,” he said, but admitted that it was just too hard to stay away. “It’s always a good time.”

Although a brisk wind threatened to blow his canopy away, Vern McKimmey was handing out promotional material for the Franklin D. Roosevelt International Park on Campobello Island, which if a fog bank hadn’t rolled in would have been visible behind him.

“This has been great,” he said. “Tomorrow the park is bringing its bus to shuttle folks downtown for the parade.”

Sunday’s events include a pancake breakfast, two parades, a truck and car show, a blueberry pie eating contest and fireworks at dusk.

A full schedule of events can be found at www.Eastport4th.com.

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