ELLSWORTH, Maine — Two hundred and fifty years ago a handful of Yankee entrepreneurs traveled up the Maine coast to establish the first permanent settlement on the Union River. Their goal was to build sawmills and dams to exploit the region’s abundant timber resources.
The French and Indian War had just ended, and Maine was part of Massachusetts. The Ellsworth settlement, in 1763, would become the commercial and political hub of Hancock County.
Next month the city is ready to celebrate.
“We’ve been around for longer than the state of Maine has,” said Gary Fortier, a city councilor and member of a committee planning the city’s sestercentennial celebration. “For a community to hold together for a quarter of a millennia, that’s quite an anniversary.”
From July 20 through July 28, historic buildings in Ellsworth — such as the old jailhouse and the Woodlawn House — will be open to the public, and Downeast Scenic Railroad will offer leisure train rides. There are also a series of special events throughout the nine-day celebration.
The party begins at noon Saturday, July 20, with a ceremony at City Hall, where U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and former Sen. Olympia Snowe, both Republicans, and Sen. Brian Langley, R-Hancock, will dedicate a commemorative keystone for the new City Hall steps.
On July 22, from 3 to 6 p.m., Global Beverage Warehouse will host a wine and beer tasting. On July 23, the motorcycle dealership Friend & Friend will host a 50-mile motorcycle run, and the city will offer free boat rides in the Union River from the Waterfront Park.
On Saturday, July 27, a full day of events are planned at Knowlton Park, including the Rotary Club’s annual pancake breakfast, games and an evening fireworks show at the high school.
“The fireworks show will be twice as big as the one at winter carnival,” Fortier said.
The cost of the celebration tops $37,000, Fortier said, most of which is covered by sponsors and private donations. The city is paying $10,000 toward the event, half from this fiscal year and half from the next.
Fortier said he can remember the city’s 200th anniversary, in 1963. He was just a kid then, but the celebration was huge. He said the current economic environment of belt-tightening and trim budgets means the celebration won’t be as lavish as he remembers in the ‘60s, but it should be a good time for everyone who attends.
For more information, including a complete schedule of events, visit www.ellsworth.250.com.
Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.