There will never be a Fourth of July celebration like the one Waterville saw in 1990.

And that’s a good thing.

It was a hot, humid Wednesday, one that many people say foreshadowed disaster from the time the sun came up.

A stage was set up at Head of Falls by the Two-Cent Bridge and a rock band was scheduled to play.

The radio blasted advertisements all day, urging people to come down to the waterfront — and bring their coolers.

And come they did — about 7,500 people from all points north, south, east and west.


Gina Henderson won’t soon forget it.

She was the only police officer on the 2-to-10 shift in Winslow that day and noticed a peculiar thing while driving in to work on Benton Avenue.

“There’s a car in front of me, and they’re throwing beer bottles out the window,” Henderson, now a detective, recalled.

Henderson, then 34 and just out of the police academy, learned there was a celebration across the Kennebec River in Waterville that was getting a little out of hand. Police closed the footbridge because a couple hundred intoxicated partiers had jumped up and down on it until part of it broke. Some also were jumping from the bridge into the river.

One guy walked across the bridge and Henderson told him to go back. He refused, so she arrested him.

She headed into Waterville, where all hell was breaking loose.


“There was a handful of us officers backed up against the bandstand,” she said. “The people were throwing bottles at us. They were throwing rocks at us.”

Waterville police Officer Ken Chase was knocked unconscious when he was hit in the head with a beer bottle.

“When I was down, a woman tried to steal the watch off my arm, and I was a police officer,” Chase recalled this week. “And she got away.”

Now 69 and retired, Chase said he had been assigned that day to watch the beer garden, a fenced-in area that advertised $3 for all the beer you could drink. Revelers were getting bombed.

“I’d been a police officer for years, and I could sense this was about to blow,” he said.

He told his supervisor that police needed more help, but didn’t get anywhere, he said.


“Then it blew. What happened was, we had a thunder and lightning storm and it was raining and the power went out. They came out and announced the music was stopped and people just hit the roof.”

That’s when the bottle cracked his head open. He was taken to the hospital, where he received nine stitches. He wasn’t the only officer injured. There were four altogether. Waterville police Officer Gerald Greene was one.

“I was an officer 25 years, and that was the worst incident I’d ever run into,” Greene, 67, recalled Wednesday.

Now also retired, Green downplayed his injuries that day.

“I got bruises and cuts, but nothing too serious.”

It was a day off for Dennis Hayden, a state police sergeant, now retired. He remembers being called in to help.


“It was a mess,” he said.

A young reporter living in Skowhegan, I also was off that day and heading to Pemaquid Beach.

Driving on Benton Avenue in Winslow, I glanced over at the Waterville-Winslow bridge and thought I saw buses loaded with what looked distinctly like state police troopers in full riot gear.

With my brain in holiday mode, I surmised they were dressed that way to march in a parade. Little did I know they were responding to a near-riot.

“They called state police and Kennebec (County) sheriffs and they got here,” Henderson said. “It was an awesome feeling — here they are.”

Amy Calder has been a Sentinel reporter 23 years. Her column appears here Saturdays. She may be reached at

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