Axton Gayne waits with his parents, Jason Gayne, left, and Dori Gayne, for the start of his birthday parade Saturday afternoon in Skowhegan. Morning Sentinel photo by Amy Calder

SKOWHEGAN — Axton Gayne couldn’t have a party for his fourth birthday because of the coronavirus pandemic, but he got something even better — a parade, complete with well-wishers honking horns and dropping off gifts.

“Happy birthday!” Axton echoed back to motorists in the parade who wished him a good day.

Skowhegan police Chief David Bucknam organized the event after Axton’s father, Jason Gayne, sent a message to the chief, asking if a parade was possible for his son, whose party had to be canceled.

“I said, ‘Hey, what do you think about this?’ and he said, ‘Yes, let’s do it,'” the elder Gayne recalled.

A four-wheeler was delivered to Axton Gayne via flatbed trailer Saturday during a Skowhegan parade held for his fourth birthday. Morning Sentinel photo by Amy Calder

Axton’s mother, Dori Gayne, said she posted a message to her friends on Facebook to let them know about the parade and they and some people she doesn’t even know turned out for the celebration.

About two dozen people, including on and off-duty police officers, towing companies, and friends and family, gathered just before 1 p.m. Saturday in a large parking lot off North Avenue to line up for the parade. The parade proceeded down Prospect Street to the corner of Madison Avenue where the Gaynes, who live in Athens, were waiting in the driveway of Hospice Volunteers of Somerset County, where Jason Gayne is executive director. He also is president and CEO of the Skowhegan Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Before the parade lineup started, police Sgt. Kris McKenna and Officer Tifani Warren said the police department has organized a few other such birthday parades during the pandemic and will continue to do so if time and resources permit. McKenna said it allows for community interaction and gives people some hope in a tough time.

Warren, taking part in a birthday parade for the first time, said she misses spending time with children at Margaret Chase Smith and North Elementary schools which are now closed because of the pandemic.

Axton Gayne watches a parade Saturday on Prospect Street in Skowhegan to celebrate his fourth birthday. Morning Sentinel photo by Amy Calder

“They’re my kiddos — I check on them all the time,” she said.

Chuck’s Auto Recovery & Towing, Skowhegan 201 Service and Redington-Fairview General Hospital EMS ambulance were among parade participants, with a Charlie & Sons flatbed carrying a four-wheeler the Gaynes had bought for Axton’s birthday. They purchased the vehicle from Charlie’s.

Dean York, owner of 201 Service, said he takes part in the birthday parades because as a father and grandfather he knows it means a lot to the kids.

“What a wonderful day, too,” he said, referring the the sunshine and warm temperatures.

York’s sons, Luke and Josh, the latter of whom is a Skowhegan police officer who was off-duty, also took part, as did off-duty Officer Isaac Wacome.

Axton sat in a little chair wearing orange and blue Ray Ban sunglasses, his smile widening with every vehicle that passed in the parade, including several that sported colorful balloons flying in the wind. He got excited when some people got out of their cars to drop off gifts.

Axton Gayne waves to people during a parade held Saturday in Skowhegan to celebrate his fourth birthday. He was not allowed to have a traditional birthday party due to the coronavirus pandemic. Morning Sentinel photo by Amy Calder

His parents said that Axton was bummed out when he found out he couldn’t have a birthday party. They told him he was going to have a parade instead, but he really didn’t know what kind of parade it would be.

Dori Gayne, manager at Hannaford in Madison, said she recorded the parade on Facebook Live so her family in Fort Kent could watch it.

“I thought it was so cute,” she said.

Jason Gayne was touched by the turnout.

“I appreciate everyone coming out and doing it,” he said. “It means the world to him. It’s a weird time right now with everything going on, so being able to do this small festivity for him for his birthday means the world to us.”

Sitting on his new four-wheeler, Axton was beaming. Asked what he thought of the parade, he responded with an enthusiastic, “Good!”

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