The Maranacook Marching Band plays during the Memorial Day parade May 27, 2019, in Wayne.

Most local events planned for Memorial Day on May 25 and the Fourth of July have been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting restrictions placed on public gatherings.

Isla Johnson, 3, of Mount Vernon eats a piece of candy and waves an American flag during the annual Independence Day parade in 2019 on State Street in Augusta. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan

Fireworks that have traditionally entertained thousands in Augusta, Belgrade and Winthrop will not take place this July Fourth, officials said, because there is no way to hold the shows without exceeding state limits that allow no more than 50 people at any public place or event.

The same goes for Memorial Day parades in Gardiner, Winthrop and Wayne, which also will not happen this year.

“It’s very disappointing to everybody, and the first time in my memory we’ve ever had to cancel,” said Jim Keenan, a Memorial Day Committee member at American Legion Smith-Wiley Post 4 in Gardiner, which organizes the traditional Memorial Day parade in Gardiner and observances of the holiday on Gardiner Common. “There isn’t much you can do about that. It just isn’t going to work out.”

Keenan said American Legion officials hope to at least have the post honor guard go to veterans’ memorials in Gardiner, West Gardiner, Pittston, Farmingdale and Randolph for brief ceremonies on Memorial Day — if they can do so while meeting social distancing guidelines.

Memorial Day parades that have traditionally been held in Winthrop, Belgrade and Wayne have also been canceled. Wayne and Belgrade plan to mark Memorial Day in new ways. Officials in Winthrop hope to do so, as well.

Parade organizers in Wayne plan to videotape Memorial Day speaker Will Ault’s remarks at the memorial stone on the shore of Pocasset Lake and post the video on the town’s website. They also plan to lay a wreath and place flags at the memorial.

They also plan to line the street with flags and put up a banner where residents can place ribbons to honor deceased loved ones. Officials also issued an invitation to anyone who wishes to write a short reflection, draw or paint a picture or write a poem of reflection to be posted on the town’s website.

Holly Stevenson, a member of the committee that organizes Memorial Day in Wayne, said organizers knew the traditional parade would bring too many people in close proximity to one another, but that people would still want to take part and honor those who have died in military service.

“Memorial Day is really special in Wayne,” she said. “We really focus on the meaning of Memorial Day, and people appreciate that. So we thought we should honor it in some way. We hope this is a way for people to still feel involved.”

In Winthrop, Sarah Fuller, chairwoman of the Town Council, said American Legion officials planned to meet Wednesday to discuss an alternative ceremony to take the place of the canceled Memorial Day parade.

In Belgrade, the parade and other public Memorial Day events are canceled, but the names of veterans from town who have died will still be read out loud. That reading will be posted online, likely on the town’s Facebook page or on Zoom, according to Town Manager Anthony Wilson. Flags have been placed on veterans’ graves and a wreath will be placed on the veterans’ memorial.

Wilson said Belgrade Lakes Region Business Group officials, like organizers of other local Fourth of July celebrations, recently agreed to cancel the annual Independence Day fireworks due to restrictions related to COVID-19.

In Augusta, the July Fourth fireworks that normally light up the Kennebec River are also canceled for this year. Leif Dahlin, Augusta’s community services director, said there will also be no activities ay Mill Park and no Fourth of July parade, all of which normally draw large, enthusiastic crowds.

Organizers of the large Fourth of July celebration usually held in Clinton could not be reached Tuesday for information. However, they posted on Facebook on April 27: “We would like to assure everyone that we are closely monitoring the situation surrounding COVID-19. We will continue to keep you updated on the 4th of July events.”

Past organizers of Memorial Day events in Hallowell and Monmouth also could not be reached Tuesday for information on this year’s plans.

Annual Memorial Day observances at the historic 1761 Pownalborough Courthouse on the banks of the Kennebec River in Dresden are also canceled this year, the first time they have not been held, according to local historian Jay Robbins, a volunteer since 1954.

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