Sun sets on Moontide

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RUMFORD – Huge displays of Fourth of July fireworks over the Androscoggin River won’t be seen this year, the first time in about a dozen years.

The Moontide Water Festival Committee is tired.

Its president, Joseph Roberts, said Wednesday that a lack of volunteers and financial difficulties have forced the decision.

“We’re tired, but we haven’t given up,” he said.

The committee, which is down to six members, plans to continue its fundraising efforts. First, it wants to pay off about $10,000 in debt for last year’s fireworks and to repay an anonymous investor who provided upfront money for a fundraising concert that was canceled by the booking agency last summer.

Then, perhaps, to raise money to resume the event in 2007.

“It’s been a struggle. It’s something people say they want, but getting funding is a different story,” said Roberts.

The festival has struggled to recover from the theft of $6,000, which has been repaid.

He said the committee will withdraw its annual request for $10,000 from the town of Rumford. The committee did not make requests from several area towns because the discussion of the possibility that the event wouldn’t take place had been going on for quite some time.

He said the “straw that broke the camel’s back,” as far as going ahead this year, occurred at a Rumford selectmen’s meeting early last month when a request for additional funding was denied as was a request to make the Moontide Committee a part of the Downtown Revitalization Committee.

“We plan to sit this year out,” he said.

Selectman Jim Rinaldo said on Wednesday that the board didn’t believe Moontide belonged under Downtown Revitalization because the festival is entertainment and the revitalization committee is meant to bring businesses into the town.

He is disappointed that the festival won’t be going on this year, but he believes people who attend the fireworks display should donate a dollar or two.

Town Manager Steve Eldridge said the cancellation of the festival is a big disappointment and will have an impact on the town’s revitalization.

“I have faith in Joe that they’ll recharge their batteries,” he said, adding that more volunteers are needed to take on some of the festival’s responsibilities.

River Valley Growth Council director Rosie Bradley believes the loss of the festival will definitely impact the town, too.

“Maybe they need to rethink things – get new people. It’s very hard. The fundraising support is not there,” she said.

And so is the lack of volunteers.

She is currently in a group trying to decide whether the very successful River Valley Expo will have a fourth year.

“We’re trying to see if there are enough sponsors for the event. Businesses are tightening up just like the towns,” she said.

She said the expo committee will decide whether to go ahead at a meeting set for April 18.

Roberts said fundraisers for the festival have been very poorly attended.

“There are good organizations that provide good services and they all need funding. There are more pieces of the pie to come out, but the pie gets smaller,” he said

But, despite this, he said at least a couple of fundraisers are being planned so that the festival could resume next year.

Among them is a three-day carnival for the end of July and a performance by the Mac MacHale band in October.

He said the Moontide Water Festival Committee will retain its nonprofit status so any donations can be made to a special account set up at Oxford Federal Credit Union.

“I’m tired. It’s been an uphill struggle,” he sighed. “But lots of times people don’t know what they’ve had until they’ve lost it.”

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