Sarah Clark of Waterville takes a sidearm shot while playing disc golf April 15 in Capitol Park in Augusta. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — A plethora of family-oriented Maine-themed activities are planned for Saturday in Augusta’s Capitol Park during the Maine State Museum’s “Maine Fest” event.

The event is free to attend and will go from 1-4 p.m.

Joanna Torow, Maine State Museum’s chief educator, said this will be the first time the museum has hosted the event. With the museum currently closed, she said she and other museum officials determined an outdoor event would be a great way to keep in touch with the public.

“Even though the building isn’t available, we got a permit for Capitol Park,” Torow said. “It’s nearby, right across the street from the museum, and we thought that would be a great way to reach out and have some fun with our visitors.”

She and other members of the museum’s education team started planning the event, and Amarinda Keys, director of the Children’s Discovery Museum of Central Maine in Waterville, also reached out about collaborating.

From there, both Keys and Torow reached out to organizations in the area to see if they would like to participate, including the Maine State Library, Friends of the Cobbossee Watershed and the Kennebec Family Enrichment Council.

The Discovery Museum will offer a variety of activities for young children, and the Maine State Library will host STEM-themed events that emphasize the beauty of the natural world. Friends of the Cobbossee Watershed will provide information about their organization and its mission, while also hosting activities that help young kids think about environmental issues in a fun, educational way.

“We’re also going to be doing a tour of Capitol Park,” said Torow. “We’ll look at some of the natural elements of it as well as its history. It’s about a 20-minute walk around the park, which has lots of monuments. I think it will be really fun.”

There will also be giveaways, including tins and popcorn. Torow said the main goal is for guests to have fun and remember the museum.

In addition to the museum being closed, she said the event is outside, as they know many in the public are more comfortable outdoors during the pandemic.

“There will be signage to remind people about social distancing, and some activities will be available for one family or group at a time, so there may be a little bit of a wait because of that,” Torow said. “We’ll also have hand sanitizer and wipes available.”

It is a “rain or shine” event, she said, and there will be canopies set up in case of rain.

“If there are showers, we’ll be brave and hopefully it will pass by,” Torow said.

Like many other facilities throughout the country, the Maine State Museum closed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It briefly reopened in June, but shortly after the building suffered HVAC failure and closed once again.

In order to address these issues, state legislators approved $15 million in funding through the Maine Governmental Facilities Authority program for repairs and upgrades to the heating, cooling and electrical systems. The money will also be used to remove asbestos from the building.

“The museum will probably be closed for several years,” said Torow.

And while they were at first hoping to reopen in 2023, delays in the project have pushed the date back to spring of 2024.

“It’s tentative,” she said. “Things are always changing and developing. We’re hoping to get open as soon as we possibly can.”

But in the meantime, she said the museum hopes to continue doing outreach through hosting events like Maine Fest.

“We’re hoping to be in the community,” she said. “Even though we can’t bring them into the building, we’re going to bring some of the fun things that they remember out in the world to interact with.”

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