EASTPORT, Maine — A congressional veteran and a congressional candidate were the political headliners Wednesday at Eastport’s traditional Independence Day parade.
Outgoing U.S . Sen. Olympia Snowe and Maine State Senate President Kevin Raye, a Republican who is running this fall for Maine’s 2nd District seat in the House of Representatives, joined the fun as thousands of revelers lined the streets of this Washington County seaside village for the parade.
Snowe and Raye have been politically connected for years. A native of Washington County and the owner of Raye’s Mustard Mill in Eastport, Raye was once Snowe’s chief of staff on Capitol Hill.
Former Maine Gov. Angus King, who is seeking Snowe’s seat as an independent U.S. Senate candidate, had his campaign staffers working the crowd, passing out lapel stickers and bright green balloons. King didn’t attend, although he will be in town on Friday.
The day’s events began with a pancake breakfast at Eastport’s airport, which Airport Manager Steve Trieber declared a “politican-free zone.”
“This is an annual fundraiser to help support airport operations and is not politically partisan in any way,” he said. “One of the candidates wanted to set up a booth, and we said no.”
Looming over the Water Street parade venue Wednesday was a massive U.S. Navy warship, tied up at the downtown deep water port. The USS San Jacinto, a 550-foot guided missile cruiser, arrived in Eastport July 1 for a weeklong stay after making its way up the East Coast from its base in Norfolk, Va.
“We always conduct training exercises when we are under way,” said Brian Hamilton, the ship’s fire control officer. “We’re making this trip as part of our commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.”
Hundreds of civilians have toured the ship since its arrival. Hamilton said the last opportunity to do so will be Sunday between 8:30-11:30 a.m. He declined to discuss the size of the ship’s crew or the extent of its weaponry due to security concerns.
“This ship has had several deployments to the Middle East,” he said. “It was the first ship to fire a cruise missile during the Gulf War.”
Downtown Eastport’s streets were blocked from traffic and filled with activities all day, ranging from the annual blueberry pie-eating contest to a blocks-long vintage car and motorcycle showcase. Sailors in their crisp, white uniforms enjoyed being ashore and mingling with the locals while chowing down an eclectic array of fair food.
Although clouds began building by mid-morning, there was no rain at the 2 p.m. start of the parade.