Maine celebrates bicentennial with pandemic-delayed parade
LEWISTON, Maine (AP) — The pandemic put the kibosh on most of Maine’s bicentennial celebrations last year, but the state proved Saturday it’s never too late for an old-fashioned parade.
Riding in a 3D-printed boat created at the University of Maine, Gov. Janet Mills served as grand marshal of the pandemic-delayed State of Maine Bicentennial Parade that snaked its way through the cities of Lewiston and Auburn.
Mills said the state has persevered in the pandemic “with the grit and grace that have shaped our state for generations.”
“The Bicentennial Parade is another opportunity to honor the resilience of Maine people, to remember our history and to recommit to creating a better and brighter future for us all,” the Democratic governor said in a statement.
The parade was held against a backdrop of a surge in coronavirus infections caused by the delta variant and an ongoing debate over rules put in place by the Mills administration to protect residents.
Protesters opposed to the governor’s vaccination mandate for health care workers gathered on a bridge between the cities before the parade started to make their point. Some exchanged words with the governor’s supporters.
Later, dozens of protesters followed the boat in which the governor was riding and shouted at her.
Mills ignored them and waved to the crowd.
Until 1820, Maine was a territory of Massachusetts. Residents became convinced they’d be better off on their own after the War of 1812, in which Mainers were angry over Massachusetts’ decision not to defend the Maine territory.
British troops remained in some parts of Maine until a year before the fourth vote for independence succeeded in 1819.
But statehood wasn’t ratified by Congress until the Missouri Compromise, which aimed to maintain the balance of power between free and slave states.
These days, Maine is known for its lobsters, quaint fishing villages and lighthouses, a deep logging tradition and Henry David Thoreau’s “North Woods.”
The state has produced a number of luminaries: Horror writer Stephen King, Secretary of State Edmund Muskie, Senate leader George Mitchell, Defense Secretary William Cohen, and Margaret Chase Smith, the first woman to serve in both the U.S. House and Senate.
The parade was previously scheduled for May 16, 2020, but the pandemic canceled nearly all of the planned bicentennial events last year.
On Saturday, musicians from across the state formed a bicentennial band that marched and performed “Stars and Stripes Forever.”
Other participants included several local bands, unicyclists, veteran groups and a giant lobster float, courtesy of the Maine Lobster Festival.