AUGUSTA — Fourth of July events throughout the region were canceled or postponed Friday because of rain, but in Belgrade, where most activities were called off, the folks who run the annual book sale say business was booming.

“It’s been awesome,” said sale organizer Linda Bacon, of Friends of Belgrade Public Library. “It’s something happening indoors, so people can get out of the rain.”

Event planners who held out hope that some events would be able to continue Friday morning were met by periodic and sometimes heavy rain. Augusta Recreation Director Bruce Chase said organizers decided early to cancel the annual Fourth of July parade and all activities at Old Fort Western. All events at Mill Park already had been called off Thursday. None of the events will be rescheduled, Chase said.

The Augusta fireworks display is set for Aug. 2 to coincide with AugustaFest.

Chase said the decision to cancel events was difficult to make and disappointing.

“Unfortunately, we can’t control the weather,” he said.

Winslow’s 24th annual Family Fourth of July Celebration parade and fireworks were postponed until Saturday, because of the consistent rain and threat of thunderstorms throughout Friday.

The decision was made about 10 p.m. Thursday, shortly after the John Michael Montgomery concert.

“Everything will be held Saturday at the same time and same location,” said Kevin Douglass, chairman of the Winslow Family Fourth of July Celebration Committee. “When you get families out here in the rain and thunder and lightning, it’s not safe for them or our staff and the people protecting everyone.”

Douglass said he sat down with Winslow Police Chief Shawn O’Leary, Winslow Fire Chief David LaFountain and members of the safety management team, and they collectively made the decision to postpone the festivities until Saturday.

“We watched the radar and saw tomorrow was a nicer day,” Douglass said. “It’s hard when we switch an event. We have no control over weather. We want it to be enjoyable for everyone.”

The announcement, which also was posted on the Winslow Family Fourth of July Facebook page, drew about 100 comments ranging from understanding to irate.

“We definitely understand the frustrations of everyone, but let’s stay positive,” the committee posted after about 90 comments. “Winslow isn’t the only ones who have postponed their parade and fireworks; some have even canceled them. We really wanted to celebrate Independence Day on Independence Day, but some things are just out of our control.”

Thursday’s events went swimmingly for Douglass and the annual celebration, with roughly 25,000 people heading to the park for a variety of country music performances, highlighted by country music star Montgomery’s free show.

Meanwhile, Belgrade’s parade, boat parade and fireworks have been rescheduled for Saturday. The boat parade is set for noon. The parade is at 4 p.m., followed by fireworks at 9:15 p.m. The book sale will continue from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Belgrade Community Center for All Seasons.

Winthrop kicked the Fourth off with a slightly soggy Friends of Fourth 5K. The Chamber of Commerce, like fireworks planners throughout the region, decided Thursday to postpone Friday’s shows until 9 Saturday night.

Though forecasters were calling for a clearing sky Saturday, fireworks planners will continue to monitor the weather, particularly the progression of Hurricane Arthur up the East Coast. While the rain is expected to be long gone by this evening, wind will be a key factor in determining whether shows will continue. State law prohibits shooting off fireworks when wind exceeds 20 mph, according to Central Maine Pyrotechnics President Steven Marson. Forecasters at the National Weather Service are calling for wind Saturday of 15 to 20 mph, with potentially stronger gusts, in Belgrade, Winslow and Winthrop.

The rainy day didn’t keep all of Belgrade’s other Fourth of July events from happening, and cars from both the area and out of state lined Main Street in Belgrade Lakes village.

The Belgrade Public Library book sale was moved to the Center for All Seasons, the farmers market at the Maine Lakes Resource Center was in full swing and on-street food vendors were doing a brisk business.

A steady stream of shoppers made their way into the Center for All Seasons, where thousands of books could be had for a donation of any amount.

“They have a good selection of books,” said Ron Gilbert of Vassalboro, who makes a habit of attending the show every year. “There are no prices. You pay what you think is fair.”

The book sale supports the Friends of Belgrade Public Library mission to pay for utilities and property upkeep at the town’s library, said Friends co-president Mike Barrett. The group is raising money for a new roof on the garage next to the library. The garage provides storage space for books.

The sale is the first of two fundraisers scheduled for this month. Openings are still available for the July 10 golf tournament at Belgrade Lakes Golf Course. To register, visit FriendsOfBelgradePublicLibrary.com.

“I’m looking for a fourth,” Barrett said with a grin.

While others bemoaned Friday’s dreary weather, Barrett said it proved helpful to his group.

“Everyone came to town expecting a Fourth of July celebration, and everything was called off,” he said.

Those who came were greeted by more than 7,000 books for sale, all neatly sorted according to topic.

“It takes about 40 hours of sorting spread out throughout the year,” Bacon said.

Donations were still coming in, promising some new selections for those who return on Saturday.

“People are walking out of here constantly with big bags of books,” Barrett said. “The piles never seem to go down.”

He said people come from throughout Maine every year because of the selection of books and the price for which they can be had.

“We have some dealers, too,” he said. “One guy has a bookstore in town. He gets all the books he can carry for whatever he can give.”

Friends co-president Wayne Pelletier said up to two-thirds of the books are likely to sell, largely because of the commitment of returning customers.

“They all look forward to it every year,” Pelletier said. “Both locals and vacationers, for that matter.”

Gilbert, who attended the sale with his wife, Debbie Warren, said he is an especially heavy reader now that he has retired from his accounting career. He was particularly interested in sports and history books.

“I have a lot more chance to read,” he said.

Bacon said Friday’s storm was the worst to hit the town’s Fourth celebration in recent memory. The Friends have held the sale for the past 14 years, usually under sun tents in the village. Bacon said some years they have had to deal with passing showers, but this was the first time rain threatened to wipe out the event all together.

“This is the first time we’ve had to have it here,” Bacon said, referencing the community center. “We’ve never had a prediction of rain for the entire day.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @CraigCrosby4


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