LEWISTON — A smattering of raindrops fell from the sky shortly before the first band hit the main stage at Veterans Park in Lewiston, but it certainly didn’t deter the crowd of thousands from making its way to the base of Great Falls for the 2010 Liberty Festival.

“This is something we’ve done every year since Amaya was born,” said Amber Cooper, 28, of Greene, attending Sunday’s free festival with her family. “They don’t quite understand ‘why’ we celebrate right now. It’s just the fireworks.”

Cooper and her husband, Spencer, were among the early festival goers scoping out the best spot to watch the big fireworks display that capped off the evening event featuring bands, vendors and a children’s area sponsored by the Auburn Firefighters Local 797. The couple have been avid attendees since even before their oldest daughter, Amaya, was born.

The couple said that their daughters, ages 5 and 4, start talking about the fireworks in the weeks leading up to the event and often associate Veterans Park with the annual display when the family drives through town during the year.

“The second largest city in Maine should observe the celebration of a national holiday,” said Richard Martin, president of the Independence Day Committee, which puts on the Liberty Festival. “It’s a tribute to the patriots who’ve come before us. We should always remember. It’s more than just fireworks. It’s community.”

And community was exactly why longtime festival-goers Claudette Dionne and her friends come out each year for the festival. The 62-year-old Lewiston woman gathered on the Veterans Park hillside with friends to reminisce about old times growing up in Canada, celebrate their American independence and enjoy their community.

“It’s a nice outing. It’s a way to meet people and it’s a beautiful day to be outside,” Dionne said.

Her friend and former co-worker, Alda Levesque, 70, of Sabattus, said that she arrives at Veterans Park each year around 11 a.m. and stakes her claim for a prime piece of park. She stays straight through until the last fireworks light up the night sky.

Martin said that this year’s festival came together quickly as the planning committee was awaiting word on support from both Twin Cities. In addition, the Auburn firefighters union donated $3,000 toward the event, making it the single largest contributor for the event.

The headliners at Sunday’s festival were Twyce Shy, the big-haired, full-swagger ’80s metal cover band.

“I think people just generally have a good time when they see us,” said 1991 Lewiston High School graduate Jerry Perron, better known by his alter ego — JP Marino, guitarist and vocals for Twyce Shy. “I didn’t realize how big this thing is. This is going to be 20,000 to 30,000 people.”

Perron and his band mates, Rycky Styx (Rick Lewis, drums/vocals) and Blackie Richmore (Fareen Pelkey, bass/vocals) said they enjoy the energy of playing festivals like Sunday’s event in Lewiston. The band got some warm-up action Saturday when they headlined the Bath Heritage Days on the banks of the Kennebec River.

Sharing the main stage with Twyce Shy was festival opener Jeroba Jump.

The L/A Music Factory provided the sound for both bands.

“The grand finale is the best,” said Amanda Leighton, 12, of Sabattus, who attended the event with her family. “We come every year for the fireworks.”

Leighton and her two sisters came to the Liberty Festival early with their family and grilled out in the parking lot across the street from Veterans Park.

“It’s the independence of the U.S.A.,” said Leighton’s sister, 12-year-old Nicole Vanover. “It’s a lot of fun, especially what they do here in L-A.”


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