Kora’s Mini-Racer drivers show their skill last summer at the Great Falls Balloon Festival Parade. Kora’s drivers, clowns and other Shrine units will host Shriners from around New England and the Northeast here in Lewiston in September.
LEWISTON — When the Twin Cities host more than 2,000 Fez-wearing Shriners from across the Northeast in September, it will be an opportunity for concerts, parades and games — and a first for Lewiston.
While Lewiston is the home of the Kora Shrine, it has never hosted the annual Field Days celebration. That’s the Northeast Shrine Association’s annual convention, which brings Shriners from 15 organizations together from as far away as Rhode Island, Prince Edward Island and Montreal.
Each Shrine group in the Northeast gets to host the celebration once every 15 years, and 2015 is Kora’s turn. The last time, and every time before that, the honor went to Portland.
“There was just an inability to house people here. We just didn’t have enough hotel rooms,” said Bernie McAllister, a member of the Lewiston-based Kora Shrine and the deputy director general of the Northeast Shrine Association.
It’s changed since Auburn’s Hilton Garden Inn and Residence Inn and Lewiston’s Hampton Inn joined Lewiston’s Ramada Inn and Auburn’s Fireside Inn and Suites.
“We have estimated there will be upward of 2,000 Shriners,” McAllister said. “We’ve already set aside and reserved 600 hotel rooms in Lewiston-Auburn. We have all of them and we hope that should be enough spots. Freeport and Brunswick our are backup plans, if we need them.”
Lewiston will actually host two groups of Shriners in 2015. A group of 100 Northeastern Shrine Association officers will come to Lewiston in March for a weekend of meetings and planning.
“We’re actually preparing for the Field Days event,” McAllister said. “We have a number of different presentations from Shriners International. They’ll update us on a number of things; hospital updates, bylaw reviews. That kind of thing.”
The main event is scheduled for Sept. 17-19. It includes a golf tournament at a local course, competitions and field games at the Auburn Mall, concerts at Lewiston’s Dufresne Plaza and Saturday parade downtown to the Kora Shrine’s Main Street headquarters.
“The plan is right now to stay right downtown, in Lewiston,” McAllister said. “We haven’t decided if we’re going to come down Canal Street or Lisbon Street.”
At the Auburn Mall, performers from the various shrines will compete against each other in clowning, mini-car races, formations and other events.
Spectators will be welcome at the competitions and the parade.
Known as the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine until 2010, the international Masonic group is famous for its philanthropy as well as its good nature. The group changed its name to Shriners International in 2010 and lists more than 120 North American regional shrines in its membership.
Since 1920, the main charitable arm of the Shriners organization has been the network of 22 childen’s hospitals in North America. The hospitals generally specialize in burns and orthopedics for patients younger than 18 years old.
Maine has two shrines, the Bangor-based Anah Shrine and southern Maine’s Kora Shrine. Kora is seven clubs based in Androscoggin, Cumberland, Oxford and York counties, the Kennebec Valley, the Midcoast and Western Mountains.
Bangor was the last Maine city to host the annual Field Days. The Anah Shrine hosted the celebration in 2012. The Melha Shrine in Springfield, Mass., hosted the Field Days in 2014.