The Maine Bicentennial Commission has a variety of items for sale to help support its efforts to celebrate Maine’s 200th birthday in 2020. Steve Collins/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

POLAND — A state of Maine Bicentennial Band is looking for Mainers who want to join a one-time opportunity to march in the May 16 Maine Bicentennial Parade in Lewiston and Auburn.

Heather Printup, community relations manager for Poland Spring Water Co., said the Poland company is excited to help sponsor the Maine Bicentennial Parade in Lewiston and Auburn on May 16, 2020.

Calling it “a band for the people,” John Neal, its director, said Thursday that anyone 13 or older may participate if he or she can march a couple of miles and play two reasonably easy marches.

Regional band rehearsals will be held across the state in the spring, and participants will gather at the Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn the day before the parade to have an all-hands practice, he said.

It is just one of many ideas in the works for the parade that Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque said is likely to attract at least 50,000 people to the Twin Cities.

“This is going to be huge,” Levesque said. “It’s really going to put Lewiston and Auburn right in the spotlight of the entire state and all of New England.”

Poland Spring Water Co. chipped in $50,000 to serve as the parade’s chief sponsor, officials announced Thursday at the Poland Spring Museum in Poland. The company is pouring in another $50,000 to help with other bicentennial events throughout the state.

Heather Printup, the company’s community relations manager, said the 175-year-old firm is “honored and proud” to participate in the parade and festivities across Maine.

Leaders from Lewiston and Auburn are pleased to be hosting the Maine Bicentennial Parade in May 2020, said Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque, left, and Denis D’Auteuil, the deputy city administrator of Lewiston. Steve Collins/Sun Journal

Maine is celebrating the 200th anniversary of its statehood in 2020 with a range of activities that will include everything from history talks to tall ships visiting the coast.

“We’re so glad it’s coming together nicely,” Levesque said.

Dennis D’Auteuil, deputy city administrator of Lewiston, said people coming to see the parade will get a chance to experience “the ongoing transformation” of the city’s economy.

“We are proud to showcase our city,” he said.

The idea of a statewide marching band arose after officials realized that a Maine high school music festival was taking place at the same time as the parade, which meant that few if any high school marching bands will be able to participate.

Searching for an alternative, they reached out to Neal, who lives in Greene, to see whether it would be possible to pull together a big marching band. He jumped at the opportunity.

John Neal of Greene, music director at the Snow Pond Arts Academy in Sidney, is heading up a new inter-generational Bicentennial Marching Band that’s offering Mainers the chance to participate in the Maine Bicentennial Parade on May 16, 2020 in Lewiston/Auburn.

“I’m hoping this will be a great thing,” he said. “We really hope the people of Maine look at this as their band and realize they can play in it.”

Neal said the two marches he plans to have the band play along the route — “The Stars and Stripes Forever” and “Military Escort” — are accessible pieces of music.

He encouraged Mainers to pull their old instruments out of the closet, check out the website to register, look and listen to the music that is already online there, practice a bit, attend the two rehearsals and turn out for the big event itself.

Neal said it will be fun for everyone, including anyone with a background in a color guard or drill team who wants to join in.

Those who want to be part of it, he said, will need to attend a regional rehearsal sometime in the weeks ahead of time and the one in Auburn the day before the parade.

The music and marching, Neal said, are not especially challenging. A “solid middle schooler” can do it, he said.

State Sen. Bill Diamond, chairman of the Maine Bicentennial Commission, talked Thursday at the Poland Springs Museum in Poland about plans for the 2020 celebration of the state’s 200th birthday. Steve Collins/Sun Journal

“Nobody should be scared of marching in this event,” he said.

Neal, who is music director at the Snow Pond Arts Academy in Sidney, said he would love to see community band and collegiate musicians among the participants.

“They’re not going to want to miss” this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, he said.

In addition to the band, there are opportunities for municipalities, companies and groups to participate with family-friendly floats that fit the “Celebrating Maine” theme. Apply on the website as soon as possible, organizers said, because they are trying to work out all the details.

State Sen. Bill Diamond of Windham, chairman of the Maine Bicentennial Commission, said the parade is going to be spectacular.

“We couldn’t be prouder than to be in L/A for the event,” he said.

The bicentennial commission has raised about $800,000 for its yearlong celebration of Maine. It hopes to find more sponsors so it can do even more.

The commission is also looking for vendors and volunteers interested in the parade. Details are on the parade’s website.

The parade is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. on May 16. Its route has yet to be announced.

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