Crowds line Water Street on July 15, 2017, for the Old Hallowell Day parade.

HALLOWELL — For the first time in more than 50 years, Old Hallowell Day has been canceled.

On Friday, officers from the Old Hallowell Day Committee, a nonprofit separate from the city, issued a recommendation to not hold the Old Hallowell Day celebration in July due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The next day, the full committee voted unanimously to cancel the event for the year, according to committee Executive Director Laura Harper.

Old Hallowell Day is usually held on the third Saturday in July, which is July 18 this year. This is likely the first time the event has ever been canceled since it began in 1968; City Historian Sam Webber said last week he was not aware of any other cancellation.

On Monday, Harper said she did not start fundraising for this year’s event in April because the outbreak was just beginning in late March.

“I didn’t want to be sending out letters and making calls, then returning money,” she said.

Downtown businesses, already reeling from a reduction in traffic due to restrictions, could feel the pain of the cancellation.

Jeremy Ashlock, owner of Juiced, said Old Hallowell Day brings in about triple the revenue than a normal summer day. Aside from the influx of revenue, he said it’s important for marketing the smoothie and juice bar as well.

Don Lachance, owner of Boynton’s Market, said the cancellation is “the right thing to do.” He said Old Hallowell Day is one of the busiest days of the year, but his busiest month is actually August.

“Everything else in Maine, your Lobster Festival, (is canceled),” he said. “We’re going to miss it, but it’s just the way life is right now.”

Jamie Houghton, owner of The Liberal Cup, said along with obvious drawbacks from a reduction customers, she will also miss the “music, frivolity, friends and neighbors.”

“Like most retail and service businesses downtown, we will miss the revenue,” she said. “But OHD is so much more than that for all of us.”

Ashlock said he did not have problems with the committee’s decision to cancel the celebration, adding the group usually looks out for the best interest of downtown businesses.

Councilor Michael Frett attended Friday’s meeting and advocated against holding Old Hallowell Day, adding that the city could become the “pariahs of Maine” if it hosted the event.

“I don’t want to be associated with a hashtag,” he said, adding that potential sponsors may not have discretionary funds to support the event after the pandemic closed many businesses for a period.

Some members of the committee suggested collaborating with another organization to have an event in Hallowell at a later date. Committee member Tim Fortin disagreed, instead advocating for a larger celebration at 2021’s edition of Old Hallowell Day.

“Let’s put on twice the fireworks display, let’s put on a hell of a parade,” he said. “Just let loose and go that route, as compared to (doing) it in September.”

Harper said there was a lot of enthusiasm within the community about what could be next, but Old Hallowell Day will not take place in 2020. She said the committee is meeting next week to discuss any potential events in the future.

“It’s going to be difficult for the community to not have the event this summer,” Harper said.

Lachance, who told the Kennebec Journal in 2018 his business was struggling due to the construction of Water Street, said it has been a “tough last few years,” but business was beginning to rebound due to strong community support.

“I have to admit, business hasn’t been too bad the last month or two,” he said. “All of my employees are working. We keep going, taking it day by day.”

Many events statewide have been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, including at least nine of the 25 Maine agricultural fairs.

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