People watch a demonstration by students of the United Martial Arts Academy in the middle of Water Street during a previous Greater Gardiner River Festival that included arts and crafts, food booths, and carnival games and rides on Water Street along the waterfront. The River Festival was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but volunteers on Saturday are holding a similar all-day celebration called “Growing Gardiner.” Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

GARDINER — After two years of no summer community event during the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of volunteers has decided to change that.

On Saturday, the result of about six months of work and planning will be “Growing Gardiner,” an all-day celebration of the historic city on the Kennebec River.

“Originally this was going to be a plant sale,” Geri Doyle said.

But as Doyle, Cheryl Clark and Kathy Brown, all Gardiner residents who make up the coordinating team, started talking about what could happen, it grew from a modest start to a larger event. The festival plans to feature live music, art, dance, an antique car display, scavenger hunt, puppet-making and a puppet show, a raffle, a presentation on Gardiner’s history, food trucks and a variety of demonstrations.

“All the different stores are doing something outstanding as far as what they are offering in their shops,” Doyle said.

The plant sale remains on the schedule, from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., at the Gardiner Public Library.


“It’s wonderful to have a day to celebrate downtown, and I hope it gets lots of people out and supporting businesses and seeing what Gardiner has to offer,” Dawn Thistle, assistant director of the Gardiner Public Library, who is giving the historic talk in the Hazzard Room at the library.

“It’s about bringing the community together, at the first major event other than (Swine & Stein) Brewfest, that the community’s invited to,” said Melissa Lindley, executive director of Gardiner Main Street.

But it’s also about drawing new people to Gardiner, whether they are from 5 miles away or 50 miles away, Lindley said.

For a number of years, the summer event season kicked off in central Maine in Gardiner with the Greater Gardiner River Festival as part of the wider “Whatever” Festival. The daylong festival featured demonstrations and activities at Waterfront Park and on Water Street, which was closed to traffic, and in the Kennebec River, capped off by a fireworks show.

A classic car parade runs down Water Street during Gardiner’s Whatever Family Festival events in 2003. Volunteers on Saturday are holding a similar all-day celebration called “Growing Gardiner.” Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

The River Festival was canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a year later, people weren’t ready for a large, outdoor event, Lindley said.

There are some significant differences between the River Festival and Growing Gardiner, Doyle said. For one thing, Water Street will remain open all day for people to come and go as they like.

For another, the day is scheduled to be capped off with a community picnic on the Gardiner Common from 5 p.m.,to 7:30 p.m., It will feature a cookout by the Gardiner Rotary Club, and ice cream sundae bar and music from the Hallowell Community Band. The full schedule of events can be found on the Gardiner Main Street website at

“It’s going to be educational, yet fun,” Doyle said. “Hopefully somebody will come downtown and enjoy it and come away a bit richer in knowledge.”

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.