Downtown Searsport. Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

SEARSPORT, Maine — A lot of things — good and bad, dramatic and mundane — can happen to a town in 175 years.  

In Searsport, one of those things that happened was the way that the coronavirus pandemic interrupted the community’s long-planned 175th birthday party. Organizers were only able to hold the reenactment of Searsport’s first official town meeting in February 2020 before all events and gatherings were put on hold.

Now, the celebration is back with a bang.

The celebration is called the “175th Plus,” and most of the festivities will take place from July 1 to July 4. It will include a performance from Tim Sample on July 2, a parade on July 3 and the biggest fireworks show in Searsport’s history on July 4.

“I’m excited to finally have this happen,” said Karen Murphy Kelley, the chair of Searsport’s 175th birthday committee. “Everything just got dropped last year. It was heartbreaking. We worked so hard. To me, it’s a miracle it’s all happening. I think the entire weekend is going to be a lot of fun.”

The first event of the weekend is called “Ripped From the Headlines,” and will feature dramatic readings and reenactments of newspaper stories of bravery, courage and daring rescues on the high seas. It will take place from 5 to 8 p.m. July 1 at the Penobscot Marine Museum, and tickets cost $20 per family group of up to 10 people.

The morning of July 2, people will be able to spot local artists working at various locations around town, including Mosman Park and on the shores of the Mill Stream. The paintings they do will be featured at an art show that will be held from noon to 4 p.m. July 3 and July 4, at Mermaid Plaza in downtown Searsport.

The big draw on the night of July 2 will be a performance by Maine storyteller and humorist Tim Sample. Tickets for the show, which are $20 each, are being sold from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each Wednesday and Friday before the event at Searsport Town Hall, or may be bought online by writing to timsamplesearsport@gmail.com.

“People are really excited,” Kelley said. “They remember seeing him at the 150th.”

Sample will also make an appearance in the parade that will begin at 11 a.m. on July 3, riding in a vintage automobile. He’ll be joined in the parade by Anah Temple Shriners, the “Bee Wild-Mobile” from Wyman’s of Maine, other vintage vehicles and much more, Kelley said.

“We’re having a huge parade,” she said. “It’s going to be one of the biggest parades we’ve ever had.”

Other weekend events include a free walking tour of Searsport from Charlene Knox Farris, the town historian, row boat races, concerts, a live variety show, lots of food vendors, a chicken barbecue, a clamming demonstration and green crab hunt at Sears Island and a movie about maritime history shown at Mosman Park. A full schedule is available at the event’s Facebook page.

But that’s not the end of the birthday celebration. Tall ships and other boats will come to Searsport Harbor for a so-called Schooner Gam, or gathering, on July 18. That seemed a fitting tribute, organizers thought, to a community that produced more shipmasters than any town of its size in the world and was once home to a 10th of the deepwater ship’s captains in the American merchant marine.  

“The bay should be fairly full. That’s what we’re hoping,” Kelley said, adding that the Schooner Gam and the birthday weekend should be worth the trip. “Come and have a wonderful time. See your friends, get some fresh air and have a good time.”

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