Letter to the editor: Thank you for your enthusiastic participation

Posted:  Monday, December 4, 2017 - 8:00pm

This letter is written to express our appreciation for the scores of volunteers and the many businesses and organizations that support Rockland Main Street’s annual Festival of Lights Celebration, as well as the countless number of families who braved the cold temperatures and availed themselves of the fun and festivities. 

For those who weren’t able to attend during Thanksgiving weekend, there is still plenty of time to participate in the annual Lobster Trap Raffle, take photos of the Lobster Trap Christmas Tree, visit with Santa at his workshop in Mildred Merrill Park, and enjoy free horse drawn wagon rides in downtown Rockland through Christmas.

A production of Rockland Main Street, Inc., the major sponsor for this year’s Festival of Lights events is the Island Institute.

Each year, Rockland Main Street, Inc. and its Festival of Lights Committee invests hundreds of man-hours planning and executing the events that take place in Rockland during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. To do so takes coordination, patience, funding, and a lot of hands-on labor.

The Rockland Festival of Lights Celebration includes the lighting and hanging of Christmas wreaths on Park and Main Streets; the arrival of Santa Claus on a U.S. Coast Guard vessel; the construction and the lighting of the Lobster Trap Christmas Tree; the Parade of Lights; the collection of non-perishable food that benefits the Salvation Army soup kitchen; the Pancake Breakfast with Santa; the horse-drawn wagon rides; the presence of Santa at his workshop; and the annual Lobster Trap Raffle.

Rockland Main Street, Inc., is a 501[c][3] nonprofit  that advocates for the downtown district on behalf of the entire city. With a focus on community development, economic vitality, historic preservation and design, one of our more visible missions is to create promotional events that bring people together to discover the values of a vital downtown.

In addition to our all-volunteer past and current board of directors and committee chairs, there are so many other wonderful people who donate their time to the overall effort, some for an hour or two, or who work on one or two specific components of the event. 

And then there is that handful of volunteers who seemingly set everything aside to work nearly full time on the Festival of Lights from beginning to end. We would be remiss if we did not give a hearty thank you to Karyn Rizzo, Deena Carafelli, and Tom Rizzo, all of whom were there at the start, and who will be there at the finish.

We hope that the readers of this letter recognize the hard work and dedication of those who devote so much of their energy this time of year to enhance the value of Rockland’s downtown district for the entire community.  

We further hope that we have brightened the Christmas holiday season for families throughout the Midcoast region. We have done our best below to recognize our participating event and activity sponsors and parade float exhibitors, and those who have helped us in our efforts with hands-on labor, technical support, equipment, materials, financial donations and in-kind contributions, and ask that you join us in demonstrating your appreciation to the management and staff who represent the following list of businesses and organizations, which appear here in no particular order: 

Island Institute, Camden National Bank, First National Bank, Bixby & Co., Hampton Inn, Shed City, J. Edward Knight, Rock City Coffee Roasters, Rock City Cafe, Dunkin Donuts, Domino’s Pizza, Rockland Café, Eclipse, Home Kitchen Café, Rotary Pizza, Journey’s End Marina, Brooks Trap Mill, Wallace Events, Lowe’s, The Free Press, Trade Winds Inn, Beth McKinney Designs, Midcoast Music Academy, F.J. O’Hara Corporation.  

Also, Maritime Energy, Five County Credit Union, Courier Gazette, Village Soup, North End Composites, Park Street Cleaners, Masters-Fowlie-Engelberg, Rockland Savings Bank, Midcoast Habitat for Humanity, Maine Lobster Festival, North Atlantic Blues Festival, Kiwanis Club of Rockland, Hazel’s Takeout, Sterling Elite, Safecare/Luce Transportation, 250 Main Hotel, Burpee-Carpenter-Hutchins Funeral Home, Prock Marine, Bar Harbor Bank & Trust, Schooner Bay Taxi, Owls Head Transportation Museum, Shepard Motors, James W. Brannan, Cates Real Estate, Loyal Biscuit, Rockland Heart & Soul, Toys for Tots, Clementine, Farnsworth Art Museum, KDK Screen Printing & Embroidery.

Also, Union Fair, Pen Bay Ministries, Strand Theatre, Girl Scouts of Knox County, Performance Paving, Automaster, Spruce Head Community Church, Riley School, Knight Marine Service, Penobscot Island Air, Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce, Midcoast Federal Credit Union, Mid-Knight Auto, Shepard Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep, Pen Bay Glass, Rockland Ford, Sogno Salon, Boston Financial, Sy’s Boat Transport, Mr. Tire, Hamilton Marine, BC Electric, Samoset Resort, Don Robishaw, St. George Carriage Company, Midcoast School of Technology, Brass Compass Café, Time Out Pub, Pen Bay Pilot, WABI-TV5, WCSH/WLBZ.

Special thanks goes to the Mayor and members of Rockland City Council, the City Manager, and the department heads and employees of the Rockland Public Services Department, Rockland Police Department, Rockland Fire Department, Rockland Harbor Master, as well as the crews from U.S. Coast Guard Station Rockland, and the Coast Guard cutters Thunder Bay, Abbie Burgess, and Tackle. Thanks also to the volunteers from the Bolduc Correctional Facility and the staff that manages the community programs there. 

We also want to recognize the award winners for the Parade of Lights, and for the downtown window decorations, all of which were judged by members of Rockland City Council. 

FLOATS: Most Lights – Journey’s End Marina; Most Creative – Habitat for Humanity; Best Commercial – Sogno Salon; Best Spirit – Strand Theatre; Honorable Mention – Maritime Energy. The People’s Choice award,[which was judged by the volume of donated food to the Salvation Army’s Food Pantry] – Girl Scouts of Knox County.

WINDOW DECORATIONS: 1st Place – Flowers by Hoboken; 2nd Place – fourTWELVE; 3rd Place – Snowdrop Confections.    

Rockland Main Street, Inc. is a focused partnership of residents, businesses and local government that enhances and protects the unique sense of place and economic vitality of downtown Rockland. In spite of the name and its primary focus on the downtown district, the organization is inclusive in its outreach and welcomes participation from the entire community.

National studies show that dense, mixed use development, usually downtown or adjacent to transit, produces a higher tax value per acre than residential and mall/big box development. Vibrant downtown districts attract investors, new residents, and a diverse business climate. Events like the Festival of Lights exposes the downtown district to the masses, many of whom return again and again throughout the year.

While every town and city experiences its own unique challenges, communities with a healthy downtown district thrive over time, benefitting both new and established residents, businesses and other stakeholders who have chosen Rockland as their home and where they work. 

As Edward McMahon, chairman of the National Main Street Center says, “Downtown is important because it's the heart and soul of a community. If you don't have a healthy downtownyou simply don't have a healthy town.” 

And as I like to say about Rockland Main Street, Inc., “If we do this right, every small business will want to be located in downtown Rockland, and everyone else will want to work, live, and play here.”

On behalf of the Festival of Lights committee, the Rockland Main Street, Inc. board of directors, and all downtown stakeholders, thank you for your enthusiastic participation.

With best wishes for the Christmas and Chanukah season, and a fruitful New Year, 

Gordon Page, Sr., is executive director of Rockland Main Street, Inc.