One Vintage Cruiser by Gulfstream trailer is seen framed in the door of another one Friday during a show at the Augusta Civic Center. The trailers made in Indiana have retro styles and color schemes. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

AUGUSTA — Despite most major events at the Augusta Civic Center being canceled in response to the spread of the coronavirus, the Augusta RV Show got underway Friday with plans by organizers to limit attendance to fewer than 250 people at any one time as it continued over the weekend.

Officials said they considered canceling the show but decided to go ahead with it, with precautionary measures, after talking it over and deciding that having the show would not put the public at greater risk.

“It’s no different from going to the grocery store,” said Reid Lanpher, of Scott’s Recreation, which sells campers and trailers in Manchester, Turner and Herman, an organizer of the Augusta RV Show. “If you don’t want to go out, you don’t have to go. We’re taking sanitizing stuff very seriously. And limiting the number of people to 250.”

Officials at the city-owned Augusta Civic Center are seeing scheduled events being canceled or postponed rapidly as the facility heads into its three busiest months of the year, according to Earl Kingsbury, the center’s director.

The 67th Kora Shrine Circus, scheduled for April 24, was the latest cancellation Friday.

“They just canceled this morning as well; everyone’s erring on the side of caution and you got to trust the professionals and their judgement,” Kingsbury said. “We have an excellent city administration and they’ve been keeping us up to date.”

Melissa Faces looks inside the kitchen cupboard of a Vintage Cruiser by Gulfstream trailer Friday during an RV show at the Augusta Civic Center. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

The scheduled RV show, which began Friday and was slated to continue over the weekend, has been the outlier but Kingsbury said officials would count and make sure no more than 250 people were inside the main auditorium, per suggestions by Gov. Janet Mills and the Maine Center for Disease Control to limit the potential spread of the virus.

“At 251, we tell them, ‘You have to wait,’” he said, though he wasn’t sure if the number of attendees would approach that threshold.

Lanpher said a worker at the entrance to the show would have a clicker and count everyone going in and out, to make sure the number of people in the show never exceeds 250.

Nic Black, who sells RV’s for Scott’s Recreation in Turner, said the situation with the coronavirus is “scary,” especially since the Auburn resident lives in the same county where Maine’s first person in the state to test positive for coronavirus resides.

“It just feels like a lot of people aren’t taking it seriously,” he said of the virus as he stood at a display, surrounded by gleaming new campers of all sizes.

Black added, however, that some people appear to be overreacting to it: “The hysteria part is the scary part.”

Lanpher acknowledged that attendance at the RV show is likely to be down this year due to concerns about the virus. He said canceling the show wouldn’t have had a major financial impact on his company, though it may have had that on the civic center.

Canadian William Bergeron and his co-workers with Ideal Cargo planned to debut the company’s new line of enclosed composite HexaCore trailers, which will be sold at Scott’s Recreation, to the world at the Augusta show. Their corner of the civic center was filled with the sound of a sledge hammer whacking the inside walls of one of their trailers, to demonstrate how tough the materials were.

Bergeron said he wasn’t really concerned about coronavirus.

“I think we don’t have to stop all activities,” due to the virus, he said while waiting for the show to get underway Friday. “Scott is taking a lot of precautions. I just used the Purell machine, and we’re just taking care about washing our hands, and respecting people who don’t want to shake hands.”

Ideal Cargo President William Bergeron kicks the wall Friday to demonstrate the strength and stability of Hexacore walls in his company’s trailers during a show at the Augusta Civic Center. He said that it was the first time the Canadian product has been shown in the United States. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

A hand sanitizer was set up at the entrance to the show.

Meanwhile, Kingsbury is bracing for what is sure to be a big financial hit from the cancellation of events.

“It’s really too early to tell, but certainly March, April and May are our three busiest months of the year, so to say it will have an impact is an understatement,” Kingsbury said.

Over the next 30 days, the center had about 20 scheduled events that could draw 250 people or more to its main auditorium; and another 14 more such events over the coming three-month period, Kingsbury said.

Cancelled events include the 40th annual State of Maine Sportsman’s Show which had been scheduled for March 27-29 and a March 18 performance of the Harlem Globetrotters.

Of those upcoming major events scheduled for the auditorium, about half have already canceled or postponed and the other half haven’t decided yet, Kingsbury said.

The civic center also has another 23 meeting rooms for nonticketed functions such as meetings, conferences and banquets, and he estimates they’ll lose one  to two dozen of those bookings.

“There is reason for optimism; there’s an opportunity to challenge our management skills,” Kingsbury said.

He said that anyone who wants updates on events should visit the Augusta Civic Center website or Facebook page.

Managing Editor Scott Monroe contributed reporting. 

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