WATERVILLE — When Joseph’s Market owners Kevin and Diane Joseph read about the loss of funding for the annual Festival at the Falls, they took action.

Kevin Joseph called festival coordinator Karen Rancourt-Thomas and offered to pitch in $1,000 for the effort with the hope that others would follow suit.

“I thought it was just a sad thing that it’s going to come to an end,” Kevin Joseph said Thursday at his Front Street market. “It’s important to keep these traditions going, especially on such short notice.”

Organizers realized the festival couldn’t go on earlier this month when $4,500 for the festival was cut from the city budget, which was finalized July 21.

The afternoon festival, which features food, music, dancing and other activities from a variety of the city’s ethnic cultures, usually is held early in September and provides a venue for area nonprofit organizations to showcase what they do, sell food and other items and raise money for their causes, according to Rancourt-Thomas, a city councilor who represents Ward 7.

Rancourt-Thomas met with the Josephs on Thursday at the couple’s store to discuss ways to raise enough money to ensure the festival is held.

While the time for planning is shorter this year, Rancourt-Thomas said she thinks organizers can pull it off if enough people donate to the effort.

“If I have to change it to a later date — two weeks later — I can,” she said. “Anyone who wants to help and be involved, I’m more than willing to talk to them and get them involved. They can call me at 314-0015.”

Rancourt-Thomas said she was surprised and humbled to get a call from Joseph when a story appeared Tuesday in the Morning Sentinel about the loss of festival funding.

“I’m more than appreciative,” she said. “It was a breath of fresh air to know that people in the community care and are willing to step up to keep a tradition going, because once we lose it, we lose it.”

Both she and the Josephs said that typically when funding disappears for an event, that event usually is discontinued, and it doesn’t come back.

The festival formerly was the Franco-American Family Festival, but two years ago organizers decided to be more inclusive and invite a wider variety of cultures to the event. Rancourt-Thomas, who is director of the Franco-American Heritage Society of Kennebec Valley, said the festival has blossomed.

Paula Mitchell, who cooks and sells Lebanese food including tabbouleh, hummus with Lebanese bread and kibbe sandwiches at the festival as a St. Joseph Maronite Catholic Church fundraiser, said she loves the festival and hopes it will be resurrected.

“I think that it’s a good opportunity for the community to get to know some of the ethnic heritages that we have in Waterville,” Mitchell said Thursday. “They’ve included the Lebanese community, the Jewish community — and I think it’s really a nice thing, that people can be aware of who we are.”

The church also sells aprons and Lebanese cookbooks at the festival, she said.

Pearley Lachance, a former festival coordinator who continues to help organize the festival at Head of Falls, noted that that area of the city on the Kennebec River once was home to families of various ethnicities and is an appropriate setting for sharing the city’s heritage.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.