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Threat of rain moves ‘Thursdays’ kickoff indoors

CARIBOU, Maine — A forecast of rain did little to stop roughly 500 from attending 2018’s first Thursdays on Sweden street festival, which was moved to the Caribou Wellness and Recreation Center on Bennett Drive.

The rec center parking lot soon hit capacity, and guests were parking at the adjacent Caribou Learning Center and further down the street when that parking lot filled.

“We had a great turnout for being inside,” said Caribou Marketing and Events Coordinator Christina Kane-Gibson, who said that the estimated turnout of 500 is somewhat high, as indoor events typically have far fewer vendors and guests, due to the limited space.

As far as making the call to move the event due to rain, Kane-Gibson said she, along with Caribou Parks and Rec Superintendent Gary Marquis and Caribou Police Chief Michael Gahagan, have lengthy discussions whenever rain is in the forecast. If any ambiguity remains after consulting meteorologists at the National Weather Service office in Caribou, Kane-Gibson said the police chief will use a mysterious device, similar to an eight ball, to help randomly choose whether or not they should hold the event.

Members of the band, No Pressure, play a set full of classic hit songs during Caribou’s June 7 Thursdays on Sweden kickoff event in the Caribou Wellness and Recreation Center. (Christopher Bouchard)

“I don’t know what the device is called and I’ve never actually seen the chief use it since we usually have conferences over the phone,” Kane-Gibson said, adding that it is essentially a magic eight ball. “We only use it after we’ve exhausted all real scientific options, such as consulting meteorologists and looking at radars.”

The event coordinator said it’s never an easy call to make, and that “with mother nature, you just never know” what the weather will bring. That said, city officials try to make the call by 2 p.m. on the day of the event, giving them time to be sure that rain is likely to occur while not being too last minute for vendors planning to set up their booths.

While there was little to no rain in the area during the June 7 kickoff event, Kane-Gibson said the decision to move inside was primarily related to safety, as the weather service had issued issue a lightning warning earlier in the day.

“We have to make sure everyone is safe,” she said, even if there’s a chance, we’d rather be safe than sorry.”

A sizable amount of vendors typically cancel when the event is moved indoors, and as a result some of the events planned for last Thursday were rescheduled for the next event on June 21.

A caricature artist, Brent Dyer, cancelled on June 7 but Kane-Gibson said he will be present for the next event. Organizers also planned on making snow cones, but decided against moving the machine into the gym, as it would likely create a mess.

She said roughly half of the vendors will cancel if the event is moved inside, but that, all things considered last Thursday’s gathering went over pretty well.

“Everyone loved the band,” she said, adding that it was No Pressure’s first time playing at Thursdays on Sweden. “We didn’t really hear anything negative about the event itself, people were just bummed that it wasn’t outside.”

Looking ahead, the next Thursdays on Sweden will be sponsored by Katahdin Trust Company, which is celebrating its centennial this year.

“We thought it’d be really cool to partner with them,” she said, “and we’re asking vendors to go with green and white colors. The Caribou table will be green and white, and have green and white balloons.”

Music at the next event will be provided by Music X-Press, a DJ service that Kane-Gibson said is very popular with guests.

“People love the variety of music they play,” she said, “and that they take dance requests and make announcements for people.”

Kane-Gibson said city officials haven’t determined what games and prizes will be offered at the city’s booth, but promised that “we’ll cook up something good.”

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