LEWISTON — The cities of Lewiston and Auburn announced Thursday that two former mayors will team up to lead the effort to secure sponsorships and private donations for the 2024 balloon festival.

Former Lewiston Mayor Mark Cayer, left, and former Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque, plan to team up to secure sponsorships for this year’s Lewiston-Auburn Balloon Festival in August. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

According to a news release, former Lewiston Mayor Mark Cayer and former Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque will co-chair the festival’s sponsorship committee, which will raise donations and sponsorships to fund costs associated with the three-day festival at Simard-Payne Memorial Park, with the goal of “raising additional funds to help secure this long-standing event in the future.”

The news comes as the cities push to host a strong event that falls just two months from now, during the weekend of Aug. 16-18. Both Cayer and Levesque said they are confident in the cities’ ability to pull together to make it happen.

“I think the community comes together when its needed, and I think this is one of those times,” Cayer said Thursday.

In late May, the city and festival organizers announced that the cities of Lewiston and Auburn would go forward with its own version of the event this year after the Great Falls Balloon Festival board initially rebuffed a city proposal to team up.

The festival board had cited a lack of sponsorships, volunteers and vendors in its decision to cancel the 2024 event.

Advertisement

Cayer, who served as mayor from 2020-21 after serving on both the City Council and School Committee, said that “after such a challenging year, it’s more important than ever to bring our community together, celebrating the resilience and spirit that defines us.”

“This festival, cherished by families for nearly three decades, is a symbol of hope, unity and a beloved tradition,” he said. “Your support is essential in helping us provide a much-needed space for families and friends to gather, heal and uplift one another.”

Levesque, mayor between 2017 and 2023, helped organize and launch the Maine Bicentennial Parade in 2021 along with Auburn’s more recent signature events, including New Year’s Auburn, the Auburn Lobster Festival and the Auburn Blues & Brews Festival.

He said he plans to take what he’s learned from those events, both the good and bad, to help the balloon fest be a success. He believes the festival can “enhance the reputation of this entire region.”

“The Lewiston-Auburn Balloon Festival is a cornerstone of our local culture and economy,” he said. “I am thrilled to join Mayor Cayer to reinvigorate this cherished event. With an estimated attendance of over 100,000 and a financial impact exceeding $2 million, sponsoring this festival is not just an investment in an event but in the very heartbeat of our community.”

After the Great Falls Balloon Fest board bowed out, the cities began referring to its version of the festival as the Lewiston-Auburn Balloon Festival. Officials have said the festival is working with vendors, nonprofit organizations and others who have previously been involved.

Advertisement

The website shows the availability of several sponsorship levels, ranging from $500 to $20,000. Levesque said the committee will announce the top tier sponsors once they are concrete.

There are also links for volunteer sign-ups, registration for nonprofit organizations to participate in the food booths, and sign-ups for craft and trade tables.

“Both cities look forward to helping support local nonprofits and welcoming countless visitors to the area to enjoy not only the magnificent balloons, but the parade, live music, food, fun and festivities over three beautiful days in August,” the release states.

Over the last few days, both cities have begun to roll out more information online and over social media, but some confusion still remains from the public over whether or not the festival is happening.

The cities have responded to several people ensuring them that the balloon festival is indeed on.

An organization called Maine Micro Artisans is coordinating the makers market, stating that “having a wide variety of handmade goods in addition to traditional vendors coordinated by the city is a game-changer. We’re proud to work with the cities of Lewiston and Auburn to make this happen.”

Advertisement

Cayer said that when he heard the news that the festival may not be happening, he reached out to staff at Lewiston City Hall to offer his help.

“I’m going to do the best I can to help it be successful,” he said. “There’s a little pressure, but sometimes that’s when people do some of their best work.”

Angelynne Amores, director of marketing and communications for Lewiston, said the former mayors’ “vast community connections allows them to honor long-time festival backers.”

“Some may shudder under the pressure of two-month deadline, but as mayors, they have first-hand experience in navigating tight deadlines, prioritizing tasks, and leading with efficiency and effectiveness,” she said.

Related Headlines

Comments are no longer available on this story