HALLOWELL — Old Hallowell Day revelers got down like never before Saturday.

Taking advantage of a reprieve from a massive and disruptive construction project that involves lowering and rebuilding the travel lanes of Water Street, a project known locally as Down with the Crown, people from all walks of life paraded through the city’s riverfront downtown on the annual Old Hallowell Day. The event kicked off with a road race and community breakfast, continuing with games and activities all day, including numerous musical performances and wrapping with raucous fireworks over the Kennebec River.

Participants in the parade had some fun in recognition of the construction project, which is roughly half finished, and which is currently in the midst of a planned break meant to allow the annual festivities to take place largely unimpeded.

“Down with the crown won’t stop our town,” read a banner on a State Paving dump truck, which blasted out thumping dance music as, following behind the truck, more than a dozen Vicki’s School of Dance dancers, wearing hard hats and fluorescent green safety vests and holding small plastic shovels and “stop and slow” signs, boogied in a choreographed dance as they made their way down the street to smiles from spectators.

Also drawing numerous smiles, and laughs, from roadside viewers was the Granite Athletic Club float, done up in what Steve “Dirty Laundry” Laundrie described as an eastern-western theme, or possibly a western-eastern theme, which Laundrie, clad in cowboy boots, cowboy hat, cutoff jeans and a leather vest with no shirt, presided over, surrounded by a handful of others also clad in cowboy gear atop hay bales and below a “Dirty East Saloon” sign. Previous Old Hallowell Days have seen Laundrie, attached to the end of a bucket truck by a harness, taking to the air. This year, he said, he wasn’t flying.

“I get a lot of positive feedback. I’ve got groupies,” Laundrie joked before the parade got underway.

Fellow Granite Athletic Club parader Aaron Mattson said they’ve taken part in the parade together for about seven years. He said Laundrie, who cuts a somewhat less-than-svelte figure, is the club’s mascot.

Spectators clapped along with the music as the 13-piece Hallowell Community Band, including teenagers and senior citizens alike, played on the back of a flatbed towed along for the parade.

The band, which this year is marking its 70th anniversary since being formed, also played for an appreciative crowd of 30 or so people after the parade, on the lawn outside the Cotton Mill Apartments, wrapping up with the national march “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

Heidi Chadbourne, a 20-year trumpet player in the band, said while the group does multiple parades over the summer, Old Hallowell Day is special for band members because they’re the Hallowell Community Band. She said she first joined the band after being asked to do so by one of its original members, the late Arnold Barrett.

“I’m not a good player. It’s just a lot of fun,” Chadbourne said. “The friends you make (in the band) are wonderful. If someone is sick or having an off day, we’ve got each other’s back.”

Erin Dovinsky and John Bastey, manning the Down with the Crown booth at Old Hallowell Day, said a pause in construction on Water Street, from July 4 through Old Hallowell Day weekend, was negotiated with the Maine Department of Transportation. During that time, the building crew worked on side streets and other areas related to the project, leaving Water Street clear of most construction gear and work. The Down with the Crown organization has worked to plan events to keep people coming to downtown Hallowell, despite the ongoing project.

“The point is to keep these people in business,” Bastey said, gesturing to local businesses lining Water Street, “to help these guys however we can.”

Downtown buildings are reflected in her euphonium as Sue Levene plays with the Hallowell Community Band as they ride down Water Street in the Old Hallowell Day parade on Saturday in Hallowell. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

Upcoming Down with the Crown events, Dovinsky said, include a July 28 afternoon “paint party” in which people can paint on the pavement on the part of Water Street that is about to be torn up when the construction project resumes.

Several young basketball players shot hoops in the parade, as participants in a summer basketball camp and the Bulldog Strong Foundation had, for their float, a basketball hoop set up on the back of a trailer. A group of mostly girls did basketball drills and took shots at the hoop from behind the trailer as it made its way down the parade route.

Joey Gilbert, an organizer of the float, said the foundation, originally formed to support the mothers of two group members who got cancer, has since raised and donated $20,000 to help buy a new gymnasium floor for Hall-Dale High School. He said the group wanted to give back to the community.

Gilbert said he’s been coming to Old Hallowell Day for 41 years.

“It’s a special day,” he said. “It’s open to everybody. It’s a reunion. People plan to take their vacations now so they can come back and see the community.”

Other parade participants included a surplus military truck carrying Quarry Tap Room revelers, with signs saying “We want beer”; Veterans for Peace members; church groups; politicians; dance troupes; Capital Area New Mainers Project members carrying American flags and flags from a few other countries; a group of mothers toting babies in backpacks; a Zamboni; the Hallowell Tree Board, whose members passed out tree seedlings instead of candy, unlike many other parade participants; and, bringing up the rear of the lengthy parade, a slew of firetrucks.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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