NEWPORT — It’s been about 15 years since the town of Newport realigned the Sebasticook River to match the flow the river took 100 years ago before the Main Street Dam and the spillway were built. Along the way, the town installed a fish ladder on the North Street Dam, removed the Main Street Dam and drained the old impoundment area to create a park it calls Riverwalk.

“So we’ve got a fish ladder and a dam removal and a river realignment that, all together, created this new Riverwalk Park,” Newport Town Manager Jim Ricker said Thursday.

Now the town is celebrating its first Riverwalk Festival, beginning with a parade at 10 a.m. Saturday, followed by a full day of fun activities, then winding down with a street dance Saturday night.

Ricker said the Riverwalk Committee of about 12 members began work on the idea for a festival about 18 months ago. The town built its new Riverwalk along the Sebasticook behind the Municipal Building on Water Street and wanted to celebrate the achievement.

“It’s a celebration on the Riverwalk that includes things like a craft fair. There’s a water slide and a bounce house for children, different children’s programs by the Maine Discovery Museum, Wildlife Encounters, Mad Scientists of Maine — there’s a lot of activities.”

There also will be a farmers market, tug of war games, food vendors, artists and a chicken barbecue from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the Riverwalk, put on by the Newport Fire Department. A pie eating contest is scheduled for 1 to 2 p.m. and a dunk tank from noon to 5 p.m. There will be a fly-tying and fishing demonstration at the town’s Cultural Center from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and a classic car show at the Hannaford supermarket on The Triangle until 2 p.m.

A chili cook-off is set for 5 to 7 p.m. at the Public Safety Building, with a beer tent open from 7 to 10 p.m. The town’s Riverwalk is between Water Street and Elm Street, Ricker said.

“The riverwalk idea came about when we realigned the river back in 2002,” he said. “We had to realign the river to enable the fish to migrate up the Sebasticook to the dam, where there’s a fishway built. Part of that construction process eliminated the old riverbed and the old spillway that was created by the dams.”

Ricker, who has been town manager for 17 years, police chief for 26 years and both for about five years, said the course of the river actually was redirected and that only in the past couple of years has the area come back with space opened up for a nice park downtown.

“Back in 2002 the flow was redirected to where it was 100 years ago,” he said. “We found that out when we started digging. We found the old riverbed. So we put the river back to its original course, and that gave us a lot of other property to redevelop.”

Ricker said the fishway project was funded by federal, state and local funding sources. The total cost of the project came in at about $1.2 million over several years.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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