EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — It was apparent by late spring that with 450 workers laid off, the Main Street paper mill shut down and the town losing $2.2 million in mill tax revenue, the last thing town leaders could fund is another East Millinocket SummerFest.
But Kelly Willigar, the event’s organizer since 2007, didn’t let that stop her.
The result of her efforts, the SummerFest 2011 that starts Thursday and ends Sunday, is a story of people who would not allow economic devastation to prevent them from celebrating the town’s identity and heritage, said Kim Marston, a co-organizer.
“People were wonderful to us,” Marston said Wednesday. “It amazes me how, when times get tough, people pull together to make good things happen.”
Deprived of the $10,000 town leaders usually allot the event, Willigar and Marston raised $6,500 on their own to fund it. They drew upon a marvelous wellspring of kindness and generosity, said Mark Scally, chairman of the town’s Board of Selectmen.
“The volunteer effort that has been put in to make up for the lack of funding, to make this as successful as it is probably going to be, has been amazing,” Scally said. “I want to say that that says something.”
Concerts, a fireworks show, dances, dinners and breakfasts, a 5K road race, parades, consignment and yard sales, adventure climbing, historical movies and slide shows, three-on-three basketball, pony rides, and Schenck High School alumni gatherings are among the events scheduled, according to eastmillinocket.org, the town’s Website. Most events will be at Opal Myrick Park.
“It is a worthwhile venture. SummerFest is a good idea, and we have to keep it going,” Scally added.
Donations of money or volunteer work came from the artists that perform in the event, local residents, unemployed millworkers and most of the town’s businesses, Marston said.
East Mill Metal and Salvage, East Millinocket Federal Credit Union, Bangor Savings Bank, Katahdin Federal Credit Union, Rioux Electric, Millinocket Regional Hospital, Beeline Cable, Dead River Oil Co. and Brookfield Renewable Energy are among those businesses that responded to letters from Willigar and Marston and donated at least $100. Another 42 businesses gave $10 each, Marston said.
Residents Jean Myers, Judy Turcotte and Wanda Sheehan gave generously, as did a woman who gave $500 to the event on the condition that she be allowed to remain anonymous. U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-East Millinocket, donated $1,000, Marston said.
Hearing of the volunteers’ efforts, the fireworks company told Willigar that they would do their $2,500 show for $1,500, Marston said. Almost all of SummerFest’s 11 musical acts donated their time, as did 20 unemployed millworkers who worked for two days setting up chairs and tents.
As many as 5,000 people are expected to attend the event, and their presence will bolster town businesses that need a boost, Marston said.
“This is so important right now because these businesses struggle all year long,” she said, “and it is a great time for everybody.”
Willigar and Marston have donated hundreds of hours of work to the event but could always use more help. Anyone interested in making donations or volunteering can call Willigar at 746-9982 and 447-1069 or Marston at 746-3944.
“It came together so smoothly because Kelly knows how to organize,” Marston said. “She is a great organizer and I think people are just generous when times are tough.”
“We are so grateful,” Marston added. “We do understand that this may not be able to happen next year, but this year it is going to happen, and it’s going to be just as great as any other year.”
East Millinocket’s SummerFest 2011: List of events
All events at Opal Myrick Park unless otherwise noted
Thursday, July 7
7 a.m.: Public breakfast, Living Hope Church of the Nazarene, 1 Palm St.
8 a.m.: Townwide yard sale
2 p.m.: Teen concert featuring Walkman Effect; slide show of East Millinocket’s 50th anniversary
3 p.m.: Teen concert featuring Grievance
4 p.m.: Public supper
5 p.m.: Concert featuring Has-beens
6 p.m.: Children’s parade
6:30 p.m.: Impersonator Beth Clark
7 p.m.: Concert featuring Lee Sothard, Hamlet Pub, Main Street
7:30 p.m.: Teen concert featuring The Hathaways
Friday, July 8
7 a.m.: Public breakfast, Calvary Temple Assembly of God, 2 Orchard St.
8 a.m.: Golf tournament registration, Hillcrest Golf Course, Millinocket
9 a.m.: Golf tournament shotgun start, Hillcrest Golf Course, Millinocket: Firemen’s hose down, Opal Myrick Park
10 a.m.: Pony rides, slide show
10:30 a.m.: Children’s old-fashioned games
11 a.m.: Schenck High School alumni
11:30 a.m.: Free hot dog
1 p.m.: Concert featuring P.E. Baker, slide show on town’s 50th anniversary
3:30 p.m.: Open microphone
4 p.m.: Public supper
6 p.m.: Concert featuring 195 Army Rock Band
9 p.m.: Fireworks show
Saturday, July 9
6:30 a.m.: 5K road race
7 a.m.: Public breakfast, First Baptist Church, 2 Oak St.
7:45 a.m.: 5K Road Race walkers
8:45 a.m.: one-mile fun run
9 a.m.: Parade registration, public works garage, Church Street; Childen’s Consignment Sale, town office, Main Street
10 a.m.: Parade
11 a.m.: Adventure climbing; pony rides; dance performance
11:30 a.m.: three-on-three basketball, Opal Myrick School
Noon: Concert featuring Jesse Hannington and Family
1:30 p.m.: Concert featuring Mark Miller
4 p.m.: Concert featuring R.F.D. Band; public supper
5 p.m.: Alumni dinner, Schenck High School
7 p.m.: Concert featuring Driftwood/Hometown Band
9 p.m.: Street dance
Sunday, July 10
7 a.m.: Public breakfast, First Congregational Church, 11 Maple St.
Noon: Public barbecue
1 p.m.: Public worship service
2:30 p.m.: Piano recital, First Congregational Church, 11 Maple St.