EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — The town’s 105th birthday and the return of fireworks to what is now called SummerFest are among the highlights of the annual town celebration that hits high gear on Friday, organizers said Thursday.
The decision by residents during the annual town meeting to allocate $2,500 to the four-day SummerFest returned the fireworks show to 9 p.m. Friday, said Kim Marston, one of the event’s organizers and wife of Selectman Mark Marston.
The vote marked the first partial restoration of funds since last year, when town leaders cut the $10,000 in funding for SummerFest entirely in response to a $2.2 million loss of revenue with the devaluation of the town paper mill when it closed and the deal town leaders gave Cate Street Capital to restart the mill last fall. The restart restored what is now about 225 jobs to the region.
Volunteers led by Kelli Willigar and Kim Marston raised more than $4,000 through movie showings and raffles to keep SummerFest going last year and raised $6,000 this year to complement the $2,500, Marston said.
This year’s show is expected to bring as many as 3,000 people to this Penobscot County town, which has a population of about 1,500.
“It’s a wonderful thing when you can get everybody together and bring that many people to town,” Marston said.
This year will feature the return to town of several members of the Groves family, including the brother of World War II hero Stephen W. Groves, a U.S. Navy flier who had a missile boat, the USS Stephen W. Groves, named after him after he was lost in the Battle of Midway in 1942.
Navy officials recently announced that another ship will be named after Groves.
Groves’ brother will be grand marshal of the SummerFest parade at 10 a.m. Saturday, said Marston. The event began Thursday with a townwide yard sale and the opening of a carnival at Opal Myrick Park, the center of festival activities, and will continue until Sunday.
The park was full of people on Thursday afternoon, Willigar said. Concerts, hot dog roasts, children’s games and a firefighters’ hosedown are among the events planned. The event schedule is available at http://www.eastmillinocket.org/summerfest2012.html.