When Earlene Margetts hatched the idea to bring a boat parade to her community on Pattee’s Pond in Winslow, she thought it would be a small get together of neighbors celebrating Independence Day.

Now, 20 years later, the tradition is still going strong, with 21 boats joining in Saturday on the procession around the 6-mile perimeter of the lake.

Before the festivities began, Margetts sat on the dock behind her home and reminisced about her first efforts to organize the parade all those years ago.

“Nearly 20 years ago I just came up with the idea,” Margetts said during a phone call on Thursday. “I saw boat parades on other ponds and I thought it would be nice to have our own boat parade on our pond. (So) I made up a little flyer and drove around the pond (and) handed one to every camp owner … And this was before we had the Pattee’s Pond Association and before social media so it was quite a time consuming process. But I would drive down every road to make sure all of the camp owners knew about it.” 

The Pattee’s Pond Association was formed in 2011 for the purpose of improving the water quality of the pond and keeping camp owners informed of community happenings.

The procession began at 5 p.m. when Margetts lead the attendees in a flag salute to honor the holiday. The boats, many of which were adorned with red, white and blue decorations of some sort, then took off on their parade route around the pond which took around 45 minutes to complete.

Margetts takes her pontoon boat on the parade route an hour before the festivities begin with a sign that lets camp owners know when the parade starts.

“Sometimes people won’t plan on being in the parade,” Margetts said. “But they’ll see us riding by and decide to join in.”

People take part in the parade from land as well, according to Margetts.

“They (camp owners) love it when we go by,” Margetts said. “They all stand on the shore and wave and yell, let off their fireworks, clap … it’s just like any other parade, people stand on the shore and show their appreciation.”

Anne Smith of Waterville is the secretary for the Pattee’s Pond Association and lives next door to Margetts at the pond.

Before the parade, Smith, who has owned her home on the pond for 10 years, recalled one year when some boaters got creative with their vessels.

“All we ask is that they’re seaworthy,” Smith said. “But we had one year where people took a float, it was a homemade float, it was a few oil barrels, and they put picnic tables on top of their float and they were sitting on the picnic tables being pulled by the boat.”

The parade welcomes any type of boat or water craft according to Margetts, who said that most participants decorate for the occasion.

“Most boats do decorate. We don’t have any competition, no prizes. We just go out and have fun,” Margetts said. “And there are all kinds of boats, whatever anybody has that’s sea worthy. There’s a lot of pontoon boats, various motor boats, kayaks, jet skis, canoes, whatever they have …”

Generally after boaters finish the parade route, they disperse either to land or anchor down in the lake and wait until 9 p.m. for Camp Caribou, a summer camp for boys on the pond, to begin its annual fireworks show.

“We come back here and maybe make some hot dogs and s’mores,” Margetts said. “We just relax until the camp puts on their fireworks show. But in the meantime a lot of camp owners do their own fireworks.”

Although the camp was forced to stay closed this summer due to the coronavirus pandemic, co-director Alex Rotman said Camp Caribou decided to still hold its fireworks show because it’s a great way to celebrate the Fourth of July while maintaining social distancing.

“We have a great relationship with everyone that lives on the pond and unfortunately we’re not in operation this summer because we felt it was tough to bring people together safely,” Rotman said Thursday. “But we still feel like it’s a great event to socially distance and we still wanted to provide the show for those on the lake …” 

Smith and Margetts shared similar sentiments.

“This is the nice things about camp and the parade,” Smith said. “You can be socially distant and be outside, not cooped up in the house. You can still do something with the family. And that’s what it’s all about, is family participation … this is just good wholesome family fun that doesn’t cost any money.”

Margetts said the festivities are “social distancing at its finest.”

Camp Caribou livestreamed the fireworks show on its Instagram and Facebook pages for campers to watch from home.

“We want to keep everyone connected,” Rotman said. “We have some campers who are used to spending their summers here so we thought it would be a great event to bring to them online.” 

The first year garnered a positive response from the community, with more than 17 boats participating.

“People were excited about it,” Margetts said. “In fact, I remember very vividly a friend of mine, who was on our boat with us the first year when we were out making our maiden voyage, she said to me, ‘look at all these boats out here. Look at what you have created …’

And in recent years I’ve heard more people tell me how excited they are for the parade, so it’s nice to hear.”

That moment is something Margetts said is one of her most cherished parade memories from the last 20 years and serves as a reminder of why she feels it’s important to keep the tradition going.

“It’s such a wonderful way to bring people together,” Margetts said. “Because there’s a lot of camp owners that keep to themselves and you don’t know a lot of the other camp owners so this is a way to at least recognize people. … And especially this year, with everything that has gone on, it’s special to be able to do this.”


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