BETHEL — A few thousand people spread throughout town on Saturday morning to catch the annual MollyOckett Days Parade and festival as temperatures climbed to about 80 degrees.

The heat was a bit stifling for parade participants, including the performance artists with the Trash Into Art puppet troupe and Circus Olé, who had to pedal uphill all the way on Main Street while wearing costumes.

Marc Rodrigue of Westbrook drove a “vintage furry pedal car” with one flat front tire as part of the act, while nearly 6-foot-tall Keanu Newell of Norway crouched inside the troupe’s 1962 Ford Econoline cardboard van, painted purple. The van took 15 hours to make.

“Half mile, all uphill,” Newell said. “It’s a good thing I run. It got pretty hot, but there was a breeze at the start that came in from underneath the van.”

The rest of the troupe were leader Rijah Newell, Keanu’s mother, who was dressed as a peacock; Aidan Farris, 13, and his 10-year-old brother, Elias, both of Steep Falls, were dressed as penguins; and their mom, Delsey Andrews, was a peacock, while Dan Rennie and Heather Westleigh, both of the Bridgton-Norway area, wore handmade tiger and lioness heads.

Rodrigue, the sound guy, streamed 1980s Dance Party music, including Steve Miller’s “Jungle Love” off satellite radio with his Android phone to accompany the performers.

The message they were trying to get across to crowds lining the parade route was to pick up trash to save the animals, Andrews said.

“We educate people about how to use art with reusable material,” Andrews said.

During the parade, nearly 2-year-old Pepper Rohman sat on the Church Street curb with her parents, Gregory and Neoma Rohman of Easton, Md., and the family pet, Oliver, a border terrier.

They watched the Trash Into Art performers, floats, emergency response vehicles and community groups come off upper Main Street onto Church Street, then wind around the Bethel Common before heading down Church Street.

After the parade, Neoma Rohman said they enjoyed it. They came up to Crocker Pond to camp out this month and friends told them not to miss the two-day MollyOckett Days festival.

The festival is named after MollyOckett, a Pequawket Indian who lived among and befriended the early settlers of Western Maine.

“I think the parade was great,” Neoma Rohman said. “And the weather couldn’t be better. We’re coming back tomorrow for the Diaper Dash. Pepper has been training for it.”

Sunday’s popular Diaper Dash, which starts at 9:05 a.m., is a fun race around the common for babies and toddlers up to 36 months. It follows the Kids’ 1-Mile Run, which starts at 8:30 a.m., and the 5-Mile Run and 2-Mile Walk, which start at 9 a.m.

Over at the wishing fountain on the town common, on which vendors under canopies displayed their wares and other festival events took place, Emily Reed, 8, of South Paris was wading and splashing. Her mother, Debbie Reed, watched nearby.

Debbie brought Emily and her 6-year-old daughter to Bethel for the parade, events and to socialize. In 1990, Debbie Reed was Miss MollyOckett and led the parade, presided over all activities and handed out awards.

“I grew up here,” she said. “Back then (in 1990) the Lion’s Club ran MollyOckett Days and you had to do an essay about why you wanted to be Princess MollyOckett. It was a tradition for many years and I guess it wasn’t politically correct, because they do essays now about why it’s important to celebrate MollyOckett, and ride in a car in the parade.”

Reed said she had to dress up as MollyOckett and walk behind a banner. She said she used to come to the festival with her grandparents for the fiddlers contest.

At the other end of the common, most of the children and many adults were seated on the grass in front of the gazebo. There, Derek Small of North American Wildlife Encounters of New Hampshire, was talking about wildlife while holding up live critters, including an opossum, a hoghead snake and a great horned owl.

Robin Zinchuk, executive director of the Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce, sat on the grass watching raptly.

“Pretty cool, isn’t it?” she asked.

Judging from the reactions of the children and adults, it really was.

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