Lauren Robinson of Litchfield turns her team, named Smith and Wesson, in the 1,000-to-1,400-pound show steer scoot competition at the Charles Henry Robinson Memorial Pulling Ring in August 2018 at the Monmouth Fairgrounds. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

GARDINER — Michael Miclon was working his contact list hard last Friday.

Just two days after the Gardiner City Council approved his request to put on the Johnson Hall Free Waterfront Concert Series this year, Miclon was scrambling to fill the eight Fridays, from July 9 to Aug. 27.

“We’re behind the eight ball,” Miclon, Johnson Hall’s executive artistic director, said last week.

As public health restrictions are easing, more people are getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and quarantines for tourists are being canceled, Miclon is not alone. Organizers of events — large and small — across Maine’s capital region are working to be ready to welcome the public back to festivals, agricultural fairs, concerts and other gatherings after more than a year of closures and cancellations.

Not all seasonal events will resume this year, either because of timing or lingering concerns about public health. Traditionally, the summer season in Gardiner kicks off with the Greater Gardiner River Festival at the end of June, but that is not taking place this year. Neither is Old Hallowell Day or Richmond Days, both of which took place previously in July.

Others are going ahead, with restrictions still in place. This year, the fourth annual Kennebec River Brewfest, hosted by the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce, is again offering Brewfest To Go Cooler Bags, complete with area beers and seasonal swag, which will be available for pickup between June 29 and July 2, rather than an in-person event.

For more than a year, the Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center has put on a series of live-streamed events from the historic opera house on Water Street because of COVID-19 public health restrictions that have made public gatherings impossible.

Now, however, Miclon is booking live acts for outside concerts and considering what he might be able to book for Johnson Hall’s Studio theater beginning in September.

“I’ve got to get to my people really fast,” Miclon said, because his is not the only venue opening up again.

Miclon said he expected bands that have gone without work for more than a year would be booking dates and filling their calendars this summer.

When the Gardiner City Council approved Miclon’s request, it also approved the application submitted by the Classic Cruisin’ at the Waterfront Park on Thursdays, from June to September, a popular event that draws classic, vintage and other unique automobiles.

Augusta is also planning a summer season of events, including different options for a Fourth of July celebration and events that have become traditions.

“We are doing Movies in the Park once again this summer,” said Michael Hall, executive director of the Augusta Downtown Alliance.

The movies, sponsored by Bangor Savings Bank, are to begin at Augusta’s Waterfront Park beginning at dusk July 15 and 22 and Aug. 5 and 12, with rain dates set for July 29 and Aug. 19.

In June, Hall said, a Business After Hours at the Colonial Theatre has been scheduled, which is expected to be the first public gathering in downtown Augusta since the pandemic was declared in March 2020.

People check out cars lining the banks of Kennebec River during a cruise-In event in June 2018 at Gardiner Waterfront Park. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

Hall said the city is also planning Waterfront Wednesdays most weeks during the summer, and other special events are in the works. From there, Hall is remaining optimistic.

“Halloween is going on full-scale this year,” Hall said. “Because if we’re still like this in October, there’s no hope.”

Outside the region’s cities, organizers of agricultural fairs have been getting ready for the fair season, beginning with the Monmouth Fair, the first fair of the season, scheduled to begin June 23.

“We’re in full-force planning right now,” Diana Morgan, president of the Monmouth Fair board, said recently. “We’re just trying to put on a fair that will be safe for everyone. We hope that people will be anxious to come out and have some fries and fried dough.”

Even with rising vaccination rates, fair organizers are making plans for ensuring social distancing at events and ensuring handwashing or sanitizer stations are available for visitors.

While a requirement to wear protective masks in public places is not expected to be in force when Gardiner’s Waterfront Concert Series starts, other measures will be in place to limit contact with people.

“The staff working there and the volunteers will be vaccinated,” Miclon said. “But we’re not going to do raffles, because we’re going to do the least amount of touching as possible.”

The Gardiner Rotary Club is planning to sell hot dogs and hamburgers, and other events are in the works.

“This is a sign of major positivity,” Miclon said.

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