NEW SWEDEN, Maine — Thomas Park’s Music Bowl is arguably one of the most uniquely iconic structures in all of Aroostook County, but the structure’s domed ceiling is fated to fall unless $10,000-$15,000 can be raised to repair the structure.
While Thomas Park Committee members are certain that the amphitheatre’s continued use this summer is perfectly safe, they do feel it’s necessary to repair the building this autumn before winter’s heavy snow takes its toll on the structure once more.
“It’s not going anywhere right now, but we know [the apex of the dome] has sagged over the last couple of winter seasons,” explained Thomas Park Committee Member David Spooner. “Our concern is that another season of snow load may [negatively] impact the structure.”
Maintenance and repairs to the park were historically done by a slew of dedicated volunteers until two years ago, when the five-person Thomas Park Committee was formed as the park’s formal overseer.
Committee member Bub Anderson explained that fellow Committee Member Dana Carlson took a close look at the Music Bowl and saw that the building is, in fact, on its eventual way down.
“Where it’s a big bowl, the top’s coming down and the sides are spreading out,” Anderson explained.
“It might not fall in this winter if we don’t do the repairs,” he said, “but one wall is out seven inches and the other is out two inches — it’s nine inches wider, and that dropped the bowl down another couple of feet.”
Originally built in the 1930s, the Music Bowl’s cultural significance extends far beyond New Sweden; Anderson remembers that when he was a kid, band concerts were held at the park every Thursday night drawing hundreds of spectators from miles around.
“All the musicians that used to play in Caribou, young and old, they used to come up and play every Thursday night,” he said.
Thomas Park and its Music Bowl still draw crowds — the annual Arootsakoostik Music Festival, for example, is held at the park each year; school concerts also still are faithfully held at Thomas Park, using the Music Bowl’s shape to naturally amplify the sound.
“With the structure being so old and having such natural acoustic elements to it, the sound is spectacular,” said Arootsakoostik founder Travis Cyr.
“As a musician, just having the opportunity to play in the structure is appealing,” he added, mentioning that the Music Bowl’s attraction for to musicians is complemented by the park’s overall scenic and aesthetic draw.
“It’s really conducive to playing music,” Cyr said.
Creeping toward nearly a century of crowd-drawing events, the Music Bowl is a significant portion of Aroostook County’s past and “the park has different memories for everyone.”
Spooner himself proposed to his wife, Laurie, in the park.
The committee is hoping that the greater community will see the value of keeping the Music Bowl sound for future use and contribute in whatever way they can, either by offering a donation to the park or by donating their time and skills this fall to help with repairs.
The $10,000-$15,000 the committee is hoping to raise will be used to combat winter’s effects on the structure and give the Music Bowl a solid foundation to stand on.
Anderson cautions that if the Music Bowl were lost, bringing it back would be no small project.
“Inside that bowl is an engineering marvel,” he said.
Those wishing to contribute monetarily to the Thomas Park Music Bowl repairs can make checks out to the Thomas Park Restoration Fund and mail to the New Sweden Town Office, 50 Station Road, New Sweden 04762.
Those wishing to lend a hand can email Spooner at DWSpooner@gmail.com or call the New Sweden Town Office at 896-3306.