LEWISTON — Rain showers dampened Liberty Fest, but they couldn’t stop the celebration.

By early evening, a few hundred people had turned out for the Fourth of July festivities, braving showers and sporadic thunderstorms to munch on hot dogs, listen to the bands and wait for the evening fireworks.

“It rains and stops, rains and stops, rains and stops,” said 8-year-old Donny Schomaker of Greene, jumping up and down to emphasize.

Liberty Fest was scheduled to kick off mid-afternoon, with fireworks at 9:30 p.m. But as thunderstorms moved through the area, organizers considered postponing the event until Sunday. At 3 p.m., while the clouds still loomed, they decided it would go.

At 5 p.m., only a few dozen people had arrived, some armed with umbrellas and raincoats. By 7 p.m., the crowd had ballooned to a few hundred.

“We always come to the fireworks,” said Tina Gross of Lisbon, who staked out a prime viewing spot — in the grass within sight of the falls — with her husband, Joshua, and children Lyndsey, 5, and Damien, 3.

By 9:30 p.m. when the fireworks went off, a couple of thousand people crowded into the park and spilled onto the sidewalks.
Specialist Devon Perry, dressed in his Army fatigues, was one of them. Perry, who is home on leave, watched the fireworks with his wife, Jen. Such Fourth of July celebrations have special meaning for him, he said.

“It just makes me proud what I’m doing, protecting the country,” he said.

But while a couple of thousand people ultimately turned out for the fireworks, entertainers and vendors said it wasn’t the daytime crowd wasn’t as big as they were used to.

“The rain hurt,” said Paul Beal, who’s offered pony rides at the festival for at least the last 14 years. While two of his ponies had riders, Beal milled around with his third. “Normally by now we’d be doing a pretty good clip.”

A Lewiston High School booster club set up a booth to sell cotton candy, hot dogs and soda, with the proceeds going to the girls’ hockey team. The booster club had hoped to raise $500 or $600. By 7:30 p.m., it didn’t look like that was going to happen.
“We’re going to be lucky to break even,” said booster club president Maria Higgins.

Still, at least some people said they wouldn’t miss Liberty Fest, rain or shine. Normand and Alda Levesque of Sabattus arrived at 11 a.m., parking their car in the lot so they and their adult son, Mike, could be guaranteed a view of the fireworks — 10-and-a-half hours later.

“We had some beautiful rain. A lot of people left,” said Norman Levesque, as he, his wife and son sat in lawn chairs in front of their car.

“We tough it out,” Mike Levesque said. “We’re die-hard Lewistonians.”

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Amanda Seely of Lewiston and Taryn Curry 3 enjoy some festival food, pizza and fries as they watch the entertainment at the Liberty Festival on Saturday.

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