PARIS – The McLaughlin Garden is inviting visitors to enjoy the sights and smells of its collection at the 10th annual Lilac Festival on Memorial Day weekend.

The festival started shortly after the McLaughlin Foundation formed in 1996 to preserve the 19th century house and barn as well as the expansive garden that belonged to Bernard McLaughlin until his death in 1995.

“This is our biggest event of the year in terms of visitors,” said Michael Desplaines, executive director of the McLaughlin Foundation.

The events kick off at 9 a.m. Saturday. Tours of the garden are scheduled for 11 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. Workshops on lilac care is scheduled for 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. The same schedule will carry over to Sunday.

Lilacs and perennials will be on sale throughout the weekend.

The foundation is accepting $5 donations from visitors. The buildings will be open until 5 p.m.

Memorial Day will mark the fourth annual Lilac Lap five-kilometer run or walk, sponsored by Androscoggin Home Care and Hospice. The first 50 preregistered participants will receive a T-shirt. Lilac bushes donated by Bailey Nurseries will be awarded to the top finishers in each age group, and random prizes will be awarded at the discretion of the race director.

Adults may register for $10, children 14 and under for $5. Registration on race day will cost $15 for adults and $10 for children 14 and under.

Desplaines says that McLaughlin amassed one of the largest private lilac collections in the state while he lived at the house.

“It’s what this garden is famous for,” he said.

The house and barn were built around 1840 and modified in 1880. Desplaines believes John Calvin Stevens, a famous Maine architect, did the modification at the request of Capt. John Tribou, the house’s owner at the time.

McLaughlin lived in the house after marrying Rena Tribou, and began planting the garden in 1936. The original property encompassed 28 acres, and the foundation now owns 4.5 acres.

Desplaines said the foundation was formed to prevent the property from being subdivided into business lots after McLaughlin’s death.

The garden is open from May 1 to Oct. 1, and the house is open year-round. The garden is open to the public for free, though group tours must be made by appointment and cost $6 for adults. More information is available at

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