CANAAN — Before there was Skowhegan — before there was even the state of Maine — there was the town of Canaan.
Incorporated in June 1788 and named for the Bible’s “promised land,” Canaan is commemorating its 225th year next month with dances, food and a parade.
Canaan isn’t the oldest town in Maine, but it is among the first to be settled shortly after the Revolutionary War, when agriculture and logging interests opened up and the stability of having a central, federal government made travel and commerce possible, according to Maine State Historian Earle Shettleworth.
Shettleworth said the oldest towns in Maine are in the Kittery, York, Berwick areas and were settled in the 1600s.
Skowhegan was a part of Canaan until 1822. Maine was granted statehood in 1820.
About 1840, a part of Warsaw, which is now Pittsfield, and a part of Hartland were added to Canaan.
The population in 1790 was about 445 people. The current population is about 2,100.
Organizers said the last time Canaan had such a big party was in 1988, when the town celebrated its bicentennial. The parade that year featured appearances by then-U.S. Sen. William Cohen and former Sen. Margaret Chase Smith.
That party stretched with one-day celebrations over the next four years called Canaan Super Saturday.
“The town hasn’t done any celebrations since then,” organizer Pam Clark said. “So I just thought it would be a good time to celebrate.”
Another event organizer, Cindy Clarke, agreed.
“As I talk to people around town about the event, a lot of people are excited about it, looking forward to it,” she said. “People miss the yearly events of the town getting together.”
Events this year begin on June 21 with a village trail walk at 10 a.m. starting at the fire station, a spaghetti supper by the Girl Scouts at 4:30 p.m. at the Farmers Hall in the former Canaan Grange on Main Street, and the Canaan’s Got Talent show from 7 to 9 p.m. at the elementary school.
On June 22, the 225th birthday parade begins at 10 a.m. Clark said the half-mile parade route will be along Easy Street to the elementary school. A chicken barbecue is scheduled for 3 to 6 p.m. at the fire hall.
Other events that day, all at or behind the fire hall, include a frog jumping contest at 11 a.m., a coin scramble at 11:30 a.m., a co-ed volleyball competition at 1 p.m., an ice cream-eating contest also at 1 p.m., and a teenagers’ arm wrestling contest at 2 p.m.
All-day events on June 22 include a craft fair, a bean bag toss, face painting, a bounce house and a rubber chicken throwing contest.
The day culminates with a street dance featuring live music by the band 4 Over 40 and a beer tent in the Canaan Village One Stop parking lot on Main Street.
Events wind down June 23 with a breakfast from 7 to 10 a.m. at the Masonic Hall on Oak Pond Road. At Lake George Regional Park, a mountain bike race is to be held at 8:30 a.m. and a picnic from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The guest speaker that day during the picnic is scheduled to be Bob Noonan, a local trapper and magazine publisher.
Special commemorative baskets will be on sale for $60, Clark said. T-shirts also will be on sale at $12 for adults and $7 for children.
Doug Harlow — 612-2367