MADISON — The 38th annual Madison-Anson Days festival kicks off Thursday for four days of food, music, races, a parade and fireworks.

The theme of this year’s event is “Honoring Our Armed Forces,” with as many as a dozen World War II veterans serving as parade marshals Saturday morning, said Madison Town Clerk Kathy Estes.

Events begin at 10 a.m. Thursday with a summer safety program for children put on by Madison police, fire, highway and electric works departments in Dillon Family Park behind the Madison Town Office.

There will be book sales, a sidewalk crafters show and cookie decorating Thursday, Friday and Saturday to benefit the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

The fifth annual chili cook-off is scheduled for 4:30-6:30 p.m. Thursday in the Main Street playground in Madison, to be followed by a 5-kilometer road race and movie night, both at Madison Junior High School.

On Friday there is a bike race at 9:30 a.m. at the Weston Avenue School and a lobster bake hosted by the American Legion on Maple Street at $15 per plate. G-Force Laser Tag and rides cost $3 at the Main Street playground. A live concert by Borderline Express is set for 7-10 p.m. at the playground. Admission is free.

The annual parade is scheduled for Saturday beginning at 10 a.m. at the Garrett Schenck school in Anson. The parade will wind its way all the way to the Skowhegan Savings Bank on Main Street in Madison. Family Fun Day, with $3 bracelets for rides, a sawdust hunt, a water slide and other children’s activities, is set for 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the playground. Fireworks are scheduled to be displayed over the Kennebec River from the Madison boat landing at 9 p.m. Saturday.

The festival wraps up Sunday with Family Farm Day at the farmers market on Main Street and a youth triathlon, which is new this year, for ages 8-15 at the boat landing. Preregistration is required for the swim, bicycle and road race event.

Madison-Anson Days originally was known as Father Rasle Days, marking the Aug. 24, 1724, massacre by British soldiers of French Jesuit priest Sebastian Rasle and 80 of his Abneki Indian followers in what is now Madison. The attack happened in the Indian village at Old Point, on the Kennebec River, where there is a monument to the priest and his mission.

The name of the festival was changed within the past 10 years.

“Father Rasle has not been totally forgotten — I would not say that,” Estes said. “It was very important. People come to see the monument. They come specifically to Madison to see that monument, so it is still very important.”

The massacre, as told by Maine author Mary Calvert in her book “Black Robe on the Kennebec,” occurred during the fourth of the early Indian wars that led to the French and Indian War of 1754-1763.

To the French, Rasle was a saintly missionary. To the English, he was a ruthless revolutionary bent on seizing land for his native country, Calvert wrote.

“The Kennebec ran red with the blood of the proud Norridgewocks that day,” she wrote.

The Norridgewocks were a band of Abenaki Indians to whom Rasle had ministered for 30 years. Also slain that day, according to Calvert’s history of the region, were two Abenaki tribal leaders, Bombazeen, an orator and warrior, and Moog Megone, a “sachem” or great chief who was immortalized by John Greenleaf Whittier’s poem “Moog Megone.”

A monument to Rasle was erected by Bishop Fenwick, of Boston, in 1833 at the battle site off Old Point Avenue and can be seen there today.

Many of Rasle’s books, translations and artifacts are stored and on display at the Maine State Museum in Augusta.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow

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