ROCKPORT — Rockport’s Quasquicentennial kicked off Thursday with a blood feud American Red Cross blood drive and continued on into the evening with Celebrate Rockport, a lively and sentimental night of music, stories, photos and cake. A large crowd filled the Rockport Opera House to hear life experiences, anecdotes and many congratulatory well wishes.
Many of the speakers’ comments all ran along the same theme: Although Rockport’s scenic value is unquestionable, it is the citizens who have made the town thrive so well over the past 125 years. There was a strong sentiment that the community volunteers, those elected to the town positions, and town employees all act in a way that expresses their love of the community, and shows that they are intelligent and capable folks who can solve complex problems and initiate workable solutions.
The population of Rockport has fluctuated over the years, and these days there are more year-round residents, according to Police Chief Mark Kelley. And, there are now more roads to plow, a larger police force that is busy 12 months a year instead of just during a long summer season. There is expanded technology in the town office, voting machines and high speed fiber optic Internet. Contracts are no longer sealed with a handshake, nor does the town clerk have to count election ballots into the wee hours of the morning.
Granville Ames summarized by saying that, “whenever I was away for his military service or a work assignment, I couldn’t wait to return because Rockport is my home.”
On stage with Ames was Herbert Annis, who reflected that he was: “feeling very much at home on this stage. I don’t know how many school plays I’ve be on this stage over the years.”
Brenda Richardson, town clerk for 30 years, could not help but chuckle when she spoke about a man “with big blue eyes” who brought in a large jar of coins, full of pennies, nickles and dimes he had been saving all year long, to pay his taxes.
An unexpected speaker who traveled the most miles to join the celebration was Paul Weston, former Rockport Town Manager (1979 through 1985), who came from Meredith, N.H. Weston shared many fond memories and how it was a privilege to serve Rockport. “This town is special and known throughout the world,” said Weston.
There are still plenty of opportunities to celebrate Rockport’s Quasquicentennial.
“We are just getting started with this celebration”, said Rick Bates, Rockport Town Manager.
On Friday evening, Feb. 26, citizens again crowded into the Opera House to hear many elders talk about their own personal memories of growing up in Rockport. Their memories were as thoughtful and sweet, and funny, and three hours were filled with laughter and applause.
The events continue on Saturday, Feb. 27, at the Camden-Rockport Elementary School, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., where there will be children's activities and games, courtesy of Ben and Ben, of the Rockport Public Library, and ice carving with Tim Pierce, of the Samoset Resort.
At 1 p.m., Scott Dyer will stage his renowned play, “My Home by the Sea,” with the fourth graders. CRES teacher Dyer produces annually in the spring the play at the Camden Opera House. This year, he has pulled together last year's third graders – now fourth graders – to reprise the production, but with special acts added to highlight Rockport's own history.
The afternoon events continued at the Union Street Arch, which marks the town line between Camden and Rockport, on what is old U.S. Route 1.There, the Select Boards from both Towns convened for a tug-of-war (there was no snow), and a handshake. A ceremonial plant (gardenia) was given to the Camden Select Board, with instructions to water it. And everyone got a PBR tall boy. That ceremony took about 5 minutes.
At 5 p.m., the community reconvened for a delicious Bean Supper at the Masonic Hall on Main Street in Rockport. Dinner included baked beans, hot dogs, brown bread, coleslaw and dessert.
Then, to round out the weekend, there was a dance at the Simonton Corner Community Hall with the band Midnight Riders. All proceeds benefited Community Hall renovations.
Both Celebrate Rockport and the Fireside Chat were recorded and can be viewed at http://livestream.com/Rockportmaine.
Sit down with a cup of tea, or a beer, and enjoy history in the making as it happened this week in Rockport. And then make plans to stick around in Rockport July 29-Aug. 7, when even more fun will take place with a Firefighters Ball, parade, and community dinner on Goose River Bridge, with a concert and maybe fireworks.
Rockport is celebrating its sense of place, and everyone is invited.