WAYNE — “I love the sound of medals around my neck,” said Vinnie Birtwell, of Wayne, as he clanged two pottery medals around his neck.

Birtwell and his uncle, Dennis Hutchinson, of Lewiston, had just received a first-place medal Saturday for their cardboard canoe staying afloat the longest. They also received a medal for their second-place landing at the dock near the Mill Pond dam. 

Echoes of cheers and laughter — the kind that come from deep in the belly and could bring tears — could be heard across Mill Pond during the cardboard canoe race, one of the highlights at Sustain Wayne’s Strawberry Festival.  

The two men took about three or four hours to make their canoe, using eight rolls of duct tape. 

“There was no limit on duct tape,” Birtwell said, though he added that the canoe did take on a tiny bit of water — but not enough to sink. 

In the spirit of the strawberry, 11-year-old Ella Steck decorated her cardboard canoe white with images of strawberries. Ella lives in Dallas, Texas, and she and her family were visiting her grandparents, who live in Wayne. 

Renee Hachey hits Ryan Eldridge, of the “Maine Cabin Masters” television show, with a plate of whipped cream Saturday during the Strawberry Festival in Wayne. There was a raffle for a chance to hit a cast member with a pie. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan

“I was nervous at the beginning,” Ella said, “but once I got going, I did not take on that much water.” 

Ella tied for third place in speed with Max Saunders, of Wayne, and Jack Oneglia, who lives in Avon, Connecticut, and is spending the summer in Wayne. 

The Strawberry Festival drew at least 1,000 people to the village, according to Sustain Wayne Vice President Tammy Birtwell. 

“I feel like when you add this community-built energy to bring in all these events, it helps all the businesses,” Tammy said. 

She said she had spoken with some business owners in the village and learned that business had been good. 

Tammy, collaborating with Ashley Stevenson, of Stevenson Strawberry Farm, organized the event. She sees it becoming an annual event for the town. 

Donna McCray, of Belgrade, with her granddaughter Kaelynn McCray, was just arriving at the festival and was surprised at what she saw. 

“I thought I was coming to pick strawberries,” McCray said, “I didn’t realize it was a whole festival. This is awesome.” 

Originally from Augusta, McCray said she and her husband moved to Belgrade “so we could be in a small community.

“I love stuff like this,” she said.

After getting a strawberry painted on her face, Lizzy Albert, 4, watches as her mother, Sarah Albert, gets one painted on her shoulder Saturday during the Strawberry Festival in Wayne. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan

Sustain Wayne used the event as a fundraiser for restoration of the Masonic Hall, which is beside the dam on Mill Pond. It is the last historic industrial building in the town, and the organization has a vision of turning it into a community center. 

Tammy hopes that next year the first floor will be used for vendors during the festival and for a winter farmers market.

This year Sustain Wayne received a Community Development Block Grant in the amount of $50,000, board member Sam Saunders said. The grant will be used to paint the building and replace the roof, windows and doors. 

“We just went out to bid,” Saunders said.

With more fundraising, the organization plans to raise the hall and replace its foundation. Part of that fundraising will include the Harvest Dinner at 5 p.m. Sept. 21. The cost of the tickets is $100, and those attending may bring home their dishware, made by Wayne Village Pottery.

The event coincided with the Wayne Farmers’ Market, which takes place from 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays on the village green, May through September. 

Siblings Roxid Plourde and his sister, Sindeo Theberge, both of Sumner, sold lemonade in front of the market. They were with their grandparents, who own Bragg Maple Syrup, of Sumner, and is a vendor at the market.

Roxid said they already had had 50 customers take a glass by noon. 

“Once we have calculated how much we earned, I may go shopping,” Sindeo said, referring to the farmers market and the vendor fair, which was in Memorial Park. 

Cast members of the television show “Maine Cabin Masters,” who recently restored a cabin for the Kennebec Land Trust, signed autographs and met fans. At the end of their visit, a few lucky fans were able throw pies at their faces as part of a raffle fundraiser for Sustain Wayne. 

Other events happening throughout the town included a craft and vendor fair in Memorial Park, the first day of a weeklong book sale at the Williams House for Cary Memorial Library, a barbecue at the fire station, performances by musician Stan Davis and the Sandy River Ramblers, and strawberry jam judging. 

 


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