WINSLOW — The second annual Fort Halifax Days celebration to help spread awareness about and raise money for improvements to Fort Halifax Park will kick off June 18 at the park off Bay Street.

The celebration is free and open to the public, although vendors will sell food at the event.

Last year the town launched a $193,000 project that consists of adding walking trails, a new parking lot, informational plaques and an outline of the original fort from the 1700s to give visitors a sense of buildings that made up the original fort.

In 2014, Winslow got a $96,000 grant from the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands for the project, and the town is working to raise money to match that amount.

The original fort complex included two main blockhouses, barracks, a main building and two additional blockhouses overlooking the area from atop a nearby hill, according to the town’s website.

All that remains of the fort today is a blockhouse — the oldest of its kind in the country — which is a national historic landmark. English settlers built the fort at the start of the French and Indian War in 1754-55. It was built where the Kennebec and Sebasticook rivers meet to help defend the upper Kennebec River valley from potential attack by the French and their Native American allies. Maine at the time was part of Massachusetts, and the Massachusetts government ordered the fort construction to help protect the valley.

The fort fell into disrepair after the end of the conflict in 1763, and only the wooden blockhouse remained. It was dismantled by the Great Flood of 1987, but logs were recovered miles away down the river and it was rebuilt in 1988.

Members of the Fort Halifax Days Committee met at the park Thursday to talk about plans for the June 18 event.

“This is really a family-oriented get-together,” member Karen Rancourt-Thomas said. “It’s very historical, with the re-enactments.”

Town Manager Michael Heavener, also a committee member, said Friday from his office that the educational significance of the event is just as important as the fundraising aspect.

“We want to educate folks about the history of this region and that particular site,” Heavener said.

Activities at the event, to be held from 1 to 4:30 p.m., will include an encampment, historical re-enactments, blockhouse tours, entertainment and people wearing period costume. The Taconnett Falls Genealogical Library will hold its annual fair from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Lithgow Street as part of the day’s celebration.

Heavener said that in addition to the June 18 event at the park, Ken Hamilton will give a talk, “Glimpses of Wabenaki Taconic,” from 5:30 to 7 p.m., Tuesday, June 14 at Winslow Public Library on Halifax Street. Hamilton, who will be part of the re-enactment June 18, will talk about the importance of Taconic in the lives of the original Wabenaki and in relation to Colonial history. Taconic, spelled differently from the typical “Ticonic” spelling used for naming of the bridge over the Kennebec River between Waterville and Winslow, was the peninsula where the fort was located.

Vendors at the June 18 event will include the Winslow Knights of Columbus and the Winslow Fire Department, and there’s plenty of space for more vendors, Rancourt-Thomas said.

“We’re not looking for local carnival-type activities; this is historical-based,” Rancourt-Thomas said. “Food will be for sale — typical dishes that could have been made from the period.”

Rancourt-Thomas, who has helped organize the Franco-American Family Festival and Festival at the Falls in Waterville, was asked to help with the Winslow festival. The band Castlebay will perform, and Living History Reenactors will be on hand at the park, which committee members say is a treasure. Committee member Virginia Sturies says visitors are welcome to come in period costume.

“This park is a huge part of Winslow-Waterville area culture,” Sturies said. “There are tons of weddings performed here, and the Fourth of July activities. You’ll see families here on the weekends. I come here almost every Saturday, and there are people taking prom pictures. We had my mother’s 75th birthday here. It’s a great place — a great park.”

Nearby, equipment was being used to work on the new parking lot being built to the north of the current parking lot, to replace that lot. When drivers enter the park, they will turn right, or north, to get into the parking lot.

Winslow Town Councilor Ray Caron, also a committee member, explained that the parking lot project represents the first phase of park improvements.

“Our goal is to be able to park in the new parking lot by June 18,” Caron said.

Heavener said the current unpaved parking lot, with room for about 15 vehicles, is inadequate. The new one, which will be paved, probably will be triple the size of the current one, he said.

Caron said the second phase of park work will include installation of an informational kiosk, and the third phase will be the marking of the fort — designating the places where the fort offices, barracks and blockhouses were, for instance, and installing framing to show their size, accompanied by information about each building. Heavener said the town hopes eventually to have a granite surface for the outline but initially will use railroad ties or something similar. A small welcoming area also will be built at the park, he said.

Caron said the hope is to make incremental improvements to the park each year.

“We are stewards of this park and every generation has an opportunity to enhance it, and that’s what we’re doing at this point,” he said.

Committee member Jim Bourgoin, director of Winslow parks and recreation, agreed.

“It’s an investment in the community,” he said.

The park, he said, is a place where people come to take photographs, fish, walk and recreate.

“It’s probably the best-kept secret in Winslow,” Bourgoin said.

At the June 18 celebration, people will be able to donate money for pavers, or blocks, to go around the kiosk that may be engraved with their names. Heavener said there are different types of blocks: a granite block, for a donation of between $200 and $500, on which a name may be engraved; a 4-by-5-foot black granite block that will sell for $500 or more, and which may have a family or business name engraved on it; and a concrete block for $100 to $200 on which a name may be engraved.

Visitors also may buy tote bags bearing the fort logo. Tents will be set up for people to sit under, and the event will be held rain or shine.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17


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