Bridgton economic director: King prefers no festival

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BRIDGTON – Community economic development director Alan Manoian said Thursday that he was disappointed to call off plans to develop a Stephen King Literary Festival, but his work to bring economic vitality to the town continues.

“We just know it would have been so magnificently received. But we feel what’s most important is affording Stephen King and his family that measure of consideration for his lifestyle,” Manoian said.

He said he clearly stated from the start that if King was uncomfortable with the idea, they would not proceed.

Manoian received an email from King’s attorney and a call from his literary agent Rand Holston in California this week both telling him that King would “prefer” that the festival not take place.

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Manoian said he fully understands King’s resistance to a plan that he felt might jeopardize his privacy.

“We truly value the lifestyle and quality of life our section of Maine really offers,” Manoian said. “He’s one of the townspeople. He really is.”

King, a former Bridgton resident who has a summer home in a nearby community, is often seen during the summer browsing shops in downtown Bridgton. Last year, he held a book signing for his work “Under the Dome” at the Magic Lantern Theater on Main Street.

“He’s a very important part of our community. We have no interest in engaging in any types of efforts (that would impinge on his ability to enjoy his summer home,)” Manoian said.

Manoian said he is disappointed the festival will not take place not only because it was a serious literary endeavor but because even though it was a nonprofit event it would have undoubtedly brought in tourists and been good economically for the town of Bridgton.

“It’s been a very hard recession. Residents are literally struggling doing everything to be able to live here year round,” he said.

The town has a population of about 6,200.

“Our families struggle every day. We have to think of these very dynamic opportunities to bring economic vitality to the town so my hometown residents can build a good life here. This is why we come up with ideas like this.”

Manoian said his job is to be enterprising and create economic activities for the town, such as the historic walking tour summer series that highlight Bridgton places, such as Farragut Memorial Park where the Sir Hiram Maxim Gun, the first portable automatic machine gun that delivered 600 rounds per minute, is displayed. The event is free, but the hope is to encourage local and out-of-town people to visit downtown and explore its other offerings too.

It is an idea that other communities have used, including King’s hometown of Bangor where the chamber of commerce promotes the fact that King and other celebrities live or have lived there.

“It’s the enterprising side of government to bring greater (economic) vitality to a community,” he said.

Manoian said Thursday that while the effort to initiate the Stephen King literary festival was unsuccessful, he was unprepared for what happened when the story was publicized worldwide this week.

“I watched this happen in real time yesterday. It got picked up immediately,” he said of Wednesday’s report in the Sun Journal about the town’s effort to develop a literary festival celebrating Stephen King’s works.

“It was in the (Boston) Herald. It was in Connecticut, then … New Mexico. The India Times picked it up. I was watching this hours by hour. I said, ‘My God, what have I done?’

“I guess I didn’t fully appreciate the explosive nature of Stephen King’s celebrity,” he said.

ldixon@sunjournal.com

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