VASSALBORO — Children and adults were wheeling around the mill Sunday inside the sprawling Olde Mill Place, having fun and helping to raise money to fix up the old place.

There were in-line skates, roller blades, roller skates, scooters and bikes tooling around on the antique wooden floors as part of the Save the Olde Mill Vassalboro fundraiser. White lights were hung from the rafters and one could smell popcorn popping.

“This place is so cool,” said volunteer Samantha Lessard, whom mill owner Ray Breton calls his unofficial mill manager. “We do so many different fun things here for the community. It’s exciting.”

A windstorm in Oct. 2017 damaged the roof at the shuttered woolen mill just off Route 32 in Vassalboro. Breton and area residents have been rallying to restore what has become the town’s unofficial community center.

“The roof, for one thing, needs to be repaired,” Breton, 62, said Sunday amid all wheeling hubbub. “That a $300,000 or $400,000 job, at least. It’s a lot of money.”

So far, volunteers in various fundraising programs have raised about $35,000.

“For a small community, that’s pretty good,” Lessard said.

Skaters on Sunday included one-time roller derby participant Jennifer Willette and her 9-year-old son, Caspar Hooper, both of Vassalboro. Willette was getting him ready for the possibility of competing someday.

“I used to play roller derby in Rockland, and I loved skating ever since I was 4 years old,” Willette said. “I did it when he was a newborn, like 9 years ago. It was rough and tumble, but it’s being part of something, being part of a group. Your friends are there to pick you up when you fall down, which you do a lot, and I loved it.”

Willette said there still are roller derby clubs in Maine and that her son might like to do it as well, once he gets comfortable on roller skates.

“I’m having fun skating,” the boy said. “I’m thinking once I get a little older and a little more practice, yes, I’d like to try it.”

The old mill hosts several town events, including Vassalboro Days festivities in September, haunted houses and mazes at Halloween, a Christmas tree lighting that brings around 300 people annually and an Easter Festival. A number of groups rent or use the space throughout the year.

When Breton bought the multi-building mill in 2010, he did not insure it because the cost was too high, he said last year. He now hopes to secure some historic preservation grant money to get the needed work done. He said he also is in the process of establishing nonprofit status for the mill and surrounding assets.

“Parts of this mill is for all the kids. It’s a community thing,” Breton said. “We have baseball training upstairs, softball training on the other end. There’s a mountain bike course upstairs. We have a playground and we have a swimming hole with 12 picnic tables and a gazebo, two docks and a water slide.”

Two rollerskating events are scheduled for this winter, at which people can bring roller skates — helmets are required — and use them on the main floor of the mill. The first of these events was held Sunday. The next one is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22. The organizers are asking for a $5 donation, and snacks are available.

“I just feel like I need to do this,” Breton said. “The kids need a place to go; and it’s not just kids, it’s adults, too. We have a beautiful thing in town — it’s the falls. I have two dams that come with the mill where everybody goes to swim.

“The reward is at the end when you see all the kids laughing and having fun and other people enjoying it. That’s my reward.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow


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