GARDINER — Martin Swinger’s vibrant personality and clever songwriting touched many in Maine and beyond, and his unexpected death in July at age 66 devastated countless people.

Just a couple months later, Swinger’s friends in Maine are now planning a concert and parade in his memory.

Martin Swinger plays guitar in the attic music room of his Augusta home. A concert and parade are planning later this month in memory of Swinger, who died July 5 at age 66. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

The concert, called “Music in the Rafters: Celebrating the Music and Magic of Martin Swinger,” is set for Sunday, Sept. 19, at 6 p.m. at Johnson Hall in Gardiner. The parade will take place on Water Street in Hallowell at 2:30 p.m. on the same day.

And though Swinger has played in several venues throughout the country, his time at Johnson Hall was especially significant. Swinger hosted and produced the cable TV show “ALIVE! From Johnson Hall,” which ran for nine years and showcased countless Maine musicians as well as the venue itself.

Kerry Wilkins-Deming, a friend of Swinger’s and one of the lead event organizers, said Johnson Hall would naturally be an ideal spot for the concert, and Johnson Hall executive and artistic director Michael Miclon said the venue was more than happy to host the event.

According to Wilkins-Deming, events have been held honoring his memory in New Jersey and the southern United States, but this will be the first in Maine.

Due to the pandemic, Miclon said the venue will only be allowing half capacity, or 60 guests, and that all entering the show will have to provide either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result within 48 hours prior to the event.

All tickets can be purchased via the johnsonhall.org website, and anyone unable to attend will receive a link to a livestream of the show on the morning of the event.

The concert will feature several performances from friends of Swinger’s and covers of his songs. Guests include Jud Caswell, Lynn Deeves, Ed Desjardins, Tom Giordano, Deb Hensley, Steve Muise, Lisa Redfern and Kathy Slack.

“It should be an amazing show,” Miclon said. Swinger “was a very important character in Johnson Hall history, we just loved him, and we’re thrilled that we get to do something to honor him.”

Tickets will be $20 each, with proceeds benefitting the Pickadilly Specialties Corp., a nonprofit that creates educational resources to reduce bullying, discrimination and intolerance with the goal of sustaining healthy, safe communities at home and in schools. The organization, which was led by Swinger and his husband, Brian Kaufman, created a board game called “The Rainbow Quest!” aimed at teens and up with the purpose of helping players learn about LGBTQ+ history and issues.

Swinger and Kaufman were among the first couples in Maine to have a same-sex wedding.

Brian Kaufman, left, and Martin Swinger sing “Stuck On You” from the musical “Whoop-Dee-Doo” to each other during their wedding Dec. 29, 2012, at Slates Restaurant in Hallowell. The ceremony was officiated by then-Hallowell Mayor Charlotte Warren, center. Swinger died July 5 at age 66. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

Wilkins-Deming said she plans on placing painted cans with small posters attached at various Hallowell businesses where patrons can donate to the foundation, adding that she hopes to also do this at future Common Ground Country Fair events in Unity.

The fair is particularly significant for Wilkins-Deming, as it is how she was first introduced to Swinger and his music.

“I was a children’s coordinator at the children’s tent, and he would perform for us every single year,” said Wilkins-Deming.

She said the children’s area of the tent was like a “fair within a fair,” a safe place for parents to bring their kids, with a musical stage called the sunflower stage, a tent for breastfeeding, face painting, and interactive games like a hay jump.

Musical logs were recently added to the children’s area, which Wilkins-Deming said are huge logs of varying sizes that children can play like a xylophone. She said she and another coordinator got the idea to paint the logs in rainbow colors and create a large sign dedicated to Swinger.

“Obviously we can’t do it this year, but this beautiful sign is going to go up every year next to our logs, and we’re hopefully going to have a Venmo or some way that people can donate to Pickadilly at every Common Ground Fair,” she said.

Wilkins-Deming and Kaufman are also planning a parade in Hallowell on Sept. 19 in honor of Swinger. The parade, according to documents in the Aug. 9 Hallowell City Council meeting packet, will start at NAMI on Water Street and end at the boat landing, and last from 2:30-3:30 p.m.

She said they’re in the process of recruiting people to participate in the parade, and that it will feature a “flat Martin.”

“Brian (Kaufman) made a life-size cutout of Martin, so I’m certain that’s going to be in the parade,” said Wilkins-Deming.

Overall, she said she’s happy to be able to pay tribute to Swinger, who impacted her life and so many others throughout the country.

When Wilkins-Deming first met Swinger, she was president of the PTA in Winthrop, and hired him to perform in the town’s schools.

“He went to each individual class, like four kindergartens, four first grades, up to fifth grade, and wrote an individual, unique song for every single classroom,” she said. “Do you know how much patience that takes? He spent an entire week at Winthrop school, and then we had a parent performance. Whether the song was 30 seconds long or a minute and 30 seconds, every classroom got up, and it was silly, it was funny, and every song was different. Who else has that kind of energy, enthusiasm, and love for music?”

She and other close friends of Swinger spent a tremendous amount of time and energy organizing these events after learning of his passing, an endeavor Wilkins-Deming said was worth pursuing.

“We put a lot of time and energy into this in a very short amount of time,” she said, “but it’s totally worth it. I miss him already; he touched a lot of lives.”

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