HALLOWELL — David Weeda led the parade for the late Martin Swinger in the same way Swinger lived his life — through music and love.

“He was about love and found a way to deliver it through his music,” Weeda said. “We will continue to do that.”

Weeda headed the parade playing bagpipes, as individuals outfitted in rainbow attire followed close behind Sunday afternoon. Swinger died unexpectedly in July at age 66. He was known for his music and for hosting and producing the TV game show “ALIVE! From Johnson Hall.”

Kerry Wilkins-Deming organized the parade honoring Swinger, which she said she hoped was a fitting celebration for his persona that was “larger than life and full of love and joy.” She met Swinger through his music at the Common Ground Fair and said her children have grown up with him. They were also at the parade.

“He radiated kindness,” she said.

The parade was scheduled to be followed by an evening concert and celebration at Gardiner’s Johnson Hall. Wilkins-Deming said that the two events, one in Gardiner and one in Hallowell, underline the fact that Swinger had a positive impact on both municipalities.

Swinger and his husband Brian Kaufman were among the first same-sex couples in Maine, having gotten married in Hallowell in 2012. The couple had been together 36 years at the time of Swinger’s death and had moved to Asbury Park, New Jersey.

At the parade, Kaufman sat in the back of a convertible next to a life-sized cardboard cutout of Swinger, along with their dog, Riddle, who was dressed in her own rainbow outfit. Through tears, Kaufman said Swinger will be remembered for his activism for the LGBTQA+ community as well as for his part in restoring Johnson Hall.

Recently, Swinger won a People’s Choice Award for his video concert series “Rainbow Room,” which he started during the pandemic.

Brian Kaufman rides with a life-size cardboard cutout of his late husband, Martin Swinger. Kaufman traveled from his home in New Jersey to celebrate Swinger’s life. Emily Duggan/Kennebec Journal

One parade attendee, Barbara Carr, is from Troy, New York, but found herself in the area during the parade. She tuned in to Swinger’s Rainbow Room every Tuesday and called it her “only regular social event.” She met Kaufman five years ago and started watching the event weekly on Facebook Live, per his recommendation.

Something similar was true for Suzanna Dee, who drove to the parade from Grand Lake Stream in Maine.

“I loved them so much,” Dee said. “His death shook me and broke my heart. When I watched the last Zoom concert, I didn’t know he would be gone by the next Tuesday.”

Weeda recalled his last contact with Swinger. It was back in June, a month before his death. Weeda had just organized the first LGBTQA+ Pride event in Bucksport and Swinger called to interview him on his radio show. Weeda played the bagpipes on the air.

“It was a great way to say goodbye, although we hadn’t know it was goodbye yet,” he said.

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