FARMINGTON — A pair of dancing monkeys waltzed across a wooden stage under the direction of puppeteer Dan Grady.

Dressed in red, blue and green pinstripes, Grady, 61, brought his puppets out into an audience of adults and children gathered under a shady tree across the street from the Franklin County Courthouse.

“Puppetry is the most inclusive art there is. It includes sculpting, theater, music, fabric design and dance,” said Grady, a traveling puppeteer from Eliot, Maine, who visited Farmington this weekend for a summer festival.

On Saturday the first Summer Solstice Celebration was held in Farmington, a festival that included Grady’s puppet shows, live music, contests and a Ferris wheel to celebrate the beginning of summer.

The festival was organized by the Farmington Downtown Association as well as local sponsors and businesses, said John Moore, a member of the association’s promotions committee.

“It’s a new festival to kick off the beginning of summer. We thought the solstice would be a good idea because it’s really the start of summer and a time people can enjoy the outdoors,” he said.

The summer solstice, which this year fell on Friday, occurs when the sun reaches its most northern point in the sky. It also marks the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of summer.

The summer solstice has historically been celebrated by many cultures around the world, including the ancient Greeks, East Asians and Native Americans. On Saturday residents and visitors in Farmington also joined in the tradition with their own celebration.

One of the goals of the festival was to promote local businesses, said Tammy Parsons, 53, of Farmington. Parsons owns the store Divine Inspirations and helped to organize an improvisational comedy show Saturday afternoon.

“We wanted to get across the idea of encouraging people to shop local and this was a fun way to do it,” said Parsons.

The comedy show, which was performed by Teacher’s Lounge Mafia, included names of local businesses in skits. The audience had to see how many names they could catch in order to win prizes from local businesses.

“This wouldn’t be possible without our local businesses and our sponsors,” said Moore of the festival, which drew a couple hundred people to downtown Farmington on Saturday.

Calico Patch, a gift store, organized a fairy house contest in which people were invited to design and build their own versions of what a home for a fairy would look like.

“It’s for kids of all ages. We encouraged people to use their imagination and we definitely saw a variety,” said store clerk Martha Bond.

Hannah Merywhew, 13, of Farmington, said the project was fun and a good excuse to get outdoors.

“I gathered a bunch of things — wood, moss and acorns,” she said. “It was fun.”

Moore said he hopes to continue the festival next year but it will depend on feedback from the community.

“We had a fairly good turnout. It was really a family event and we hope we can bring it back,” he said.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368
rohm@mainetoday.com