WASHINGTON — If given a chance to write a script for how the day would go, master of ceremonies John Christie could hardly have written anything better than the opening of this town’s bicentennial celebration Saturday.

The skies were bright, the temperatures were pleasant and the people were cheerful. Even the white doves cooperated. Released at the ceremony’s conclusion, the birds flew to the trees only to return and circle once over the crowd gathered at the soldiers monument before flying off toward home.

“The sun is shining on Washington, Maine, today,” Christie said.

The opening ceremony kicked off a busy schedule for the town’s 200th birthday party. The day began with a 5-kilometer foot race and then a parade that included more than a fair share of firetrucks, antique cars and a trailer carrying the “survivors of Washington’s one-room school house.”

When the parade was over, people checked out the farmers’ market at the Grange, the Downtown Gallery displaying stoneware ceramic tiles depicting Washington scenes and an art show at the library.

Christie, a town resident and member of the Maine Ski Hall of Fame, hosted the opening ceremonies at Medomak Camp at noon. The camp hosted the children’s carnival.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, spoke during the morning ceremony at the Civil War monument.

“It’s a far more exciting day to be in Washington, Maine, than Washington, D.C.,” Pingree said. “The people are nicer, the weather is nicer and you get a lot more done.”

Pingree said the bicentennial was a time to celebrate the present, but also to remember the past and the roots of the community.

“If we visited the cemetery, we’d see so many names we know,” said Pingree, of North Haven island. “You may be from the west and I may be from the east, but I bet we have a lot of family and friends in common.”

The community spirit, which was almost palpable, is exactly what the town had hoped to create over two years of preparation, said Liane Chapman, a member of the town’s historical society.

“It’s a fantastic occasion,” said Chapman, dressed for history in a bonnet, shawl and ground-length skirt. “It’s a wonderful chance to get together.”

The community spirit made even strangers feel like honorary members of Washington.

Hank Lunn, who grew up in the Aroostook County town of Littleton and now lives in Camden, was dressed in a Civil War 20th Maine foot soldier’s uniform. Lunn, who during the opening ceremonies read the proclamation detailing the town’s history, said it was fitting events would begin at the Civic War monument on a day commemorating the town’s history.

“It’s wonderful we remember and honor them,” Lunn said, motioning toward the monument bearing the names of 120 Washington men who died in the war. “They’re why we’re standing here today as a union rather than as the Northern states.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

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