AUBURN — After 15 months and two postponements due to the pandemic, the Maine Bicentennial Parade is set to march through the streets of the Lewiston and Auburn next Saturday, Aug. 21.

“It’s full speed ahead for the parade,” said Kristen Muszynski, director of communications for the Maine Department of the Secretary of State and a member of the Bicentennial Commission.

The parade begins at 10 a.m. on Mill Street in New Auburn. The 1.3-mile route proceeds down Main Street into downtown Auburn, crosses Longley Memorial Bridge onto Main Street in Lewiston and ends near the Kora Temple close to the intersection with Sabattus Street. More than 100 units are expected to participate, including numerous bands, floats, clowns, antique vehicles and marchers representing nonprofits and businesses throughout the state.

The 1.3-mile Maine Bicentennial Parade route proceeds down Main Street into downtown Auburn, crosses Longley Memorial Bridge onto Main Street in Lewiston and ends near the Kora Temple close to the intersection with Sabattus Street. Submitted map

Maine Gov. Janet Mills will serve as grand marshal and ride on the lead float — a boat made from composite materials from a giant 3D printer in Orono.

The parade will include a flyover by a plane from the Maine Air National Guard.

Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque predicts the parade will be the largest event in the state this year. He has estimated that as many as 30,000 people will attend.

The parade is one of the marquee events surrounding the state’s bicentennial celebration marking Maine’s statehood in 1820. Delayed a year due to the pandemic, the now 200+1 celebration has included events throughout the state this summer. They have included museum and historic home and building tours, music from early Maine, sailing ship visits, various festivals and an innovation expo. A special time capsule is planned for December.

The State of Maine Parade was a yearly extravaganza that began in 1983 and continued for 20 years. State organizers also pointed to Auburn hosting its 15oth celebration parade two years ago.

“This is going to be the largest parade for at least a generation, going back to the days when Lewsiston-Auburn had that parade,” said David Cheever, vice chairman of the Maine Bicentennial Commission and the former Maine State archivist. “Whether that’s passed through by genetics or whether you have enough experienced people around, it’s been a treat working with these two towns.”

Muszynski described the Twin Cities as the hub for parades in the state and praised the two cities for their efforts to plan and coordinate the logistics required to host such a large event.

The former Maine State Parade, which began in the 1980s, typically involved more than 100 groups marching from Lewiston into Auburn. It was a way for school music programs to showcase their talents and nonprofit agencies to raise money.

When the parade first rolled through the Twin Cities, most of the participants were school band members. The program grew to involve dozens of other organizations, but the bands remained a staple.

It still is, only it has taken on a new form. One highlight that organizers are excited about is the multigenerational band — current and future musicians joining with older adult band members and alumni to form one large bicentennial marching band under the direction of John Neal of Greene.

“This bicentennial celebration wasn’t merely a retrospective,” Cheever said. “We wanted to turn and pivot and look into the future, like the band, and make it multigenerational. You’re taking yesterday’s trumpeter and tomorrow’s trombonist. We’re able to link generations and keep this thing, like the marching band, moving forward.”

The parade was previously scheduled for May 16, 2020, but the pandemic canceled nearly all of the planned bicentennial events last year. Most were rescheduled for 2021, including the parade on May 15, but the pandemic pushed the date ahead to Aug. 21. A few groups that had planned to participate in the parade last year dropped out for various reasons.

“We did retain the bulk of our folks who had entered,” Muszynski said. “We  also added some additional folks who had been unable to participate last year.”

“There’s some volatility,” Cheever added. “Certainly more than 80 will participate, and likely the number will be more than 100. WGME, which is televising and livestreaming the event, said the number of participants is 110.

Parking will be available throughout Lewiston and Auburn. Shuttles will run between the parking areas, the parade route and downtown.

According to organizers, the state’s three major political parties are expected to have floats, but do not expect any political statements, Cheever said.

“This is not what this is about,” Cheever said. “This is a celebration, a recognition if you will, of old-fashion values. ‘Happy birthday us’ or ‘happy birthday, Maine.’ We have music, floats, people. Its’s a celebration of us.”


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