LEWISTON — The paparazzi were everywhere.
They skulked on the sidewalks in front of Lewiston Middle School, waiting with cameras and microphones. Each time the white limousine pulled to the curb, they shouted their questions at the stars who emerged.
“Are you going to blow them away tonight? What do you have to say to your fans? Are you getting married this summer?”
The stars — all 74 — just smiled, shook a few hands, signed a few autographs. Security guards toting umbrellas escorted the VIPS into the school, where spotlights and flowers, fans and awards awaited.
Welcome to the 23rd annual Night of the Stars, an Oscar-style ceremony to recognize the most talented young writers at Montello Elementary School.
“It’s the Hollywood treatment,” said Cathy Proulx of Geiger, the local company that has sponsored the event for more than two decades.
Where there are cameras and reporters (even if some of those reporters were fake), politicians are sure to follow.
Gov. Paul LePage was invited for reasons that became quickly obvious. The children being celebrated were reminded, over and over, that they should have dreams and they should never cease in their attempts to realize them. It was the theme of the night.
Who better to stress that message than a man who rose up from the streets of Lewiston to govern the entire state?
“Because Gov. Paul LePage grew up in Lewiston and had to overcome poverty, homelessness and many other difficult circumstances to get where he is today,” said Peter Geiger, “he is the perfect example of the power of aspiration. His message will resonate well with our young stars.”
The governor wasted no time getting to his story. He was able to go to college and make something of himself, he said, because someone gave him a chance. And, of course, because he never gave up.
“You can be anything you want to be,” LePage told them, before the awards ceremony got under way. “You can achieve anything you want to achieve. If you put your mind to it, you can make it happen.”
As a role model for dreaming big, LePage isn’t bad. Neither is Peter Geiger, who runs the advertising specialties company, the largest in the industry that’s family-owned and family-managed.
“With a solid education,” Geiger said, “anything is possible.”
And with that advice firmly implanted into the minds of the children, it was time for the good stuff. One by one, kids walked to the stage to be congratulated on their poems and short stories. Large medallions on red, white and blue cords were draped over their heads.
Wherever the stars went, spotlights followed. Cameras flashed all over the place. If you squinted your eyes, this really could be the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood and Highland.
“It’s really a fun time,” state Rep. Peggy Rotundo said. “It’s a hoot.”
The governor remained onstage during the ceremony, shaking hands with the young writers, whose work will be published in an anthology.
Night of the Stars is the signature event of the Geiger-Montello partnership, dedicated to raising aspirations and recognizing excellence among the students of Montello Elementary School.
The partnership began in 1988 when Peter Geiger pioneered the Adopt-A-School program, which has since grown to include other businesses and schools.