WATERVILLE — Hundreds of people turned out Sunday at the Head of Falls park to celebrate the changing of the seasons and Waterville’s cultural diversity during the joint Harvest Fest and Festival at the Falls.

People sat and stood, watching a stage with live musicians playing traditional French folk tunes. Nearby, a handful of kids were busy carving pumpkins, while others waited in line to try their hand at pumpkin bowling, aiming a small gourd down a hill at 1-liter bottles at the end of a lane made out of hay bales.

Payton Frederick, 6, was helping her mother, Karla, carve up a pumpkin to resemble herself, down to the eyeglasses. “I have glasses,” Payton said. “They are easy to make.”

Her sister Ashley, 12, said she was going to carve a cat into her own pumpkin. The family has two cats at home, she added.

Karla Frederick said the family is from Dixmont but was visiting relatives in the area. They heard about the festival and decided to come down for the day to get some errands done and enjoy the afternoon, Fredrick said.

This is the first year in which the two festivals have been held together and combined with events celebrating Maine Craft Weekend, put on by Waterville Creates!.


Festival at the Falls, which previously was called the Franco-American Festival, was expanded in 2014 to include other ethnic and religious groups in the city. Earlier this year, however, its future was in question after the Waterville City Council cut $4,500 in funding for the event. It was salvaged by donations from private citizens and joined forces with the Harvest Fest.

Karen Rancourt-Thomas, director of the Franco-American Heritage Society, which organizes the cultural festival, said Sunday that combining the two events might have drawn a greater variety of people. Although there were some things she would consider changing next year, overall it seemed to be going well, Rancourt-Thomas said.

“I can’t complain. I’m enjoying it,” she said.

A string of tables under two white tents were covered with food representing the city’s ethnic and religious tapestry.

Rabbi Rachel Isaacs, from the Beth Israel synagogue on Main Street, said most of the food synagogue members had brought was gone, with a couple hours still left before the close of the festival.

“We’re not totally sold out, but we will be by the end of the day,” Isaacs said. “We’ve made out far more successfully than we ever could have imagined.”


Volunteers had made traditional Jewish pastries such as macaroons, mandel bread, apple cake and almond cookies. The congregation probably will have to make more food for the festival next year, Isaacs added.

“It’s a good problem to have,” she said, laughing.

On one side of the Beth Israel table, the Kotlas-Waterville Sister City Connection served borscht, beet soup; while on the other side, the Knights of Columbus served hot dogs and sausages. Nearby, the Franco-American society carved thick slice of tourtiere, traditional meat pie from Quebec.

“Waterville is really special in that we have all lived next to another and gotten along with each other for so many decades,” Isaacs said.

In recognition of the city’s diversity, the T-shirts made up for event volunteers had the word “volunteer” printed on the back in English, French, Arabic and Russian.

Near the food tables, Lori Gervais, from Waterville Main Street, was helping unload a trailer filled with pumpkins. The organization ordered 200 pumpkins for the event but ran out and had to go get 30 more, she said.


Mary Littlefield, from Winslow, crossed the river with her three young grandsons to enjoy the afternoon at Head of Falls. She said connecting the two events was a good move.

“It brings a wider variety of people,” she said.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire

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