In 1989, more than 3,600 people crammed into the gym at Central Maine Community College, then called Central Maine Vocational Technical Institute, for a live performance by Ray Charles.

It must have been a great show.

The concert was planned as an outdoor event beside Lake Auburn. His publicist promised the Sun Journal that Charles would “wail.”

He was a master of big band music, jazz, country, rhythm and blues and rock n’ roll. His recording of “Somewhere over the Rainbow” bleeds with longing. His jazz recordings, featuring many of his own compositions and his performances on several instruments (including piano and saxophone), are textured classics. His “What’d I Say” defies someone to be still.

There are so many others.

It rained the day he came to Auburn: Aug. 27, 1989. But the show went on.

Charles’ 17-member orchestra played and his ever-present background singers, The Raelettes, sang.

I’m sure Ray wailed.

– Daniel Hartill
Nature gone wild

You don’t need to watch one of those cheesy television specials to see wildlife action. Just take a walk down Pagoma Lane in Lewiston, where wild animals brawled over the weekend.

A woodchuck scrapped with a porcupine and came away with quills in its face. Perhaps looking to restore its self-confidence, the woodchuck turned its wrath on a guinea pig running loose in a back yard.

It was a mismatch from the beginning. The undersized pet guinea pig was swiftly thrashed by the woodchuck. When frantic owners of the smaller animal rushed outside, the woodchuck had the guinea pig in its mouth.

It got even uglier. Several people began to beat the woodchuck in an attempt to save the guinea pig. In the confusion, the guinea pig bit a woman who was coming to its rescue.

In the aftermath, the woodchuck was killed. The guinea pig suffered injuries that would later prove fatal. Its owner was bleeding from the bite. There was no sign of the porcupine that started the whole affair.

Animal Control Officer Wendell Strout came to the rescue. He sorted out the mess and collected the dead woodchuck. The animal tested positive for rabies, which it probably acquired from the porcupine. There was a risk that the disease was passed on to the guinea pig and subsequently, to the woman it bit.

Strout believes the chances of that are minimal.

He is prepared for more animal drama as summer moves in and the heat rises. Dogs and cat, skunks and squirrels, chipmunks and raccoons. You never know which will land at the bottom of the food chain.

– Mark LaFlamme
Prize winners

Martel Elementary School students may have lost a winter recess, but they’ve gained an award.

Darlene Letourneau’s third-graders won a silver award in the Local Leaders category of the 2004 International CyberFair competition, with their Web site dedicated to a school policy they didn’t like.

The students spent months researching the “No Recess During Winter” policy at their school, examining how it was made and looking into ways to change it. They built Web pages to display their results and presented their project to school officials.

This is the fifth year that Letourneau’s class has entered the CyberFair competition. The class has won an award each year.

– Lindsay Tice

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