LEWISTON — Organizers of the Northeastern Association Fall Field Days worked hard to bring the annual event to the Twin Cities this week — and they’re working just as hard to keep the 2,000 expected Shriners in town for the duration of the convention.

“We really are trying to showcase not just Kora Shriners but also the L-A community as a potential destination for people,” said Tim Luttrell, Kora Shrine member and the housing chairman for the convention. “There are things to do here, and that is exactly why we are here, instead of in Portland.”

The convention, hosted by Lewiston-based Kora Shrine, kicked off at 6 p.m. Thursday with an opening ceremony in Veterans Memorial Park on Main Street and continues Friday with business meetings and local tours.

But the event gets into gear Saturday morning with music, clowns and miniature cars in Lewiston and at the Auburn Mall and a huge parade around downtown Lewiston on Saturday afternoon to close out the convention.

“Every Shrine center does things a bit different, so Maine people will get a chance to see things they never would,” Luttrell said. “We’ll have some pretty unique things. There could be a snowmobile unit, where they just drive snowmobiles down the middle of the street.”

Lewiston has never hosted the annual Field Days celebration. That’s the Northeast Shrine Association’s annual convention, which brings Shriners from 15 organizations together from as far away as Prince Edward Island and Montreal.

Each Shrine group in the Northeast gets to host the celebration once every 15 years, and 2015 is Kora’s turn. The last time, and every time before that, the honor went to Portland.

Luttrell said housing and food were the big things that let Kora bring the convention here this year. They’ve reserved 320 hotel rooms, including Lewiston’s Ramada Inn, Auburn’s Residence Inn by the mall, the Fireside Inn by the turnpike interchange and the newly opened Hampton Inn in downtown Lewiston.

“We have this opportunity once every 15 years and we won’t have it again until 2030,” he said. “Every time in the past we didn’t have enough hotels, and frankly we didn’t have enough restaurants to keep everybody set. But now, with our new hotels and the resurgence of chef-owned restaurants downtown, we decided we could come here.”

Luttrell said local tours and events scheduled for Friday are designed to keep visitors in town. They include sponsored tours of Baxter Brewery, Museum L-A, the Franco Center and Lufthansa’s Constellation restoration project at the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport.

“We don’t have scheduled lunches or meals on Friday, so we want to do what we can to keep them in town and going to local restaurants,” he said. “We’re doing our best to keep them in town, instead of shipping them off to Freeport or whatever.”

Competitions at the Auburn Mall will pit performers from the various Shrines against each other in clown competitions, mini-car races and formation contests, among other events.

Spectators will be welcome at the competitions and the parade.

Known as the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine until 2010, the international Masonic group is famous for its philanthropy and its good nature. The group changed its name to Shriners International in 2010 and lists more than 120 North American regional Shrines in its membership.

Since 1920, the main charitable arm of the Shriners organization has been the network of 22 childen’s hospitals in North America. The hospitals generally specialize in burns and orthopedics for patients younger than 18.

Maine has two Shrines, the Bangor-based Anah Shrine and southern Maine’s Kora Shrine. The Kora Shrine includes seven clubs in Androscoggin, Cumberland, Oxford and York counties, the Kennebec Valley, the Midcoast and the Western Mountains.

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