NORWAY – Aaron Fuda led his contingent down the center of Main Street, sign in hand, a small bullhorn at his mouth and red fairy wings on his back.

“We smoke pot,” Fuda informed the crowd gathered for Norway’s 41st Annual Arts Festival. “We like it a lot.”

Fuda led a blue van pulling a portable hot tub decorated with a giant marijuana cigarette and pro-marijuana signs.

A few friends soaked in the hot tub – mostly male, mostly topless. A topless woman joined them as they traveled east down Main Street, her chest screened from the crowd by the walls of the tub and her fellow protesters.

The float picked up a few more participants, including a more visibly topless Emma Donovan of Norway and a guitar player, as it made its way up Main Street to Butters Park.

The spectacle didn’t elicit much more than a few grins, some laughter and cheers from arts festival patrons. Most stopped browsing among the water colors, pastels and jewelry to watch Fuda and friends pass.

Then, the festival-goers got back to the art.

It wasn’t the reaction Fuda expected, he said afterward, shrugging in response to being asked what he did expect.

During the protest, he carried a sign that read: “Legalize Fudafest, In the Woods or In Town.”

That’s the crux of the protest – whether Fuda and his friends get to celebrate on his land on McKay Road according to their own rules. Town ordinances have curtailed the annual clothing-optional, pro-marijuana, anti-government Fudafest party for the past two years.

“The town keeps passing new laws to keep Aaron from having Fudafest on his own property,” said protester Emma Donovan. “So, if they’re not gonna let us do it on his property in the woods, then we’re going to do it in town.”

If Saturday’s reaction was any indication, the group would get little opposition from townspeople.

“I think it’s great,” said Laura Wright from the Mill Street Catering Company. “This festival should represent everybody in town – and they’re part of the town, too.”

The protesters were even given a place on the arts festival’s official schedule of events. They were listed under the “Performance Art” heading and given an official spot in Butters Park.

Organizer Aranka Matolcsy said the festival couldn’t legally stop Fuda and friends from parading through town, so organizers chose to include them.

“I think there is room for us to work together,” Matolcsy said. “As long as they don’t disrupt the other artists, we don’t have a problem. And they did a great job last year.”

Having Fuda and his group in town increased media focus on the event in 2007.

“We wouldn’t have had television stations out covering our little arts festival,” Matolcsy said. “But they came last year, and a lot of people heard about us for the first time then.”

Not everyone was happy with the Fuda performance art.

“I’m a grandparent, and I was going to bring my grandchildren here,” said Karen Murphy of Norway.

“I don’t walk around in front of my grandchildren or anyone smoking pot or topless. I’m mad at the organizers for allowing it to happen. You don’t see this kind of thing at a festival in Florida or anywhere else. You shouldn’t see it in Norway, Maine.”

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