The Star-Herald

Aroostook Shrine Club postpones popular Spring Basket Feztival until May

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — After a highly successful first event last year, the Aroostook Shrine Club’s Spring Basket Feztival will return for an extended weekend of activities.

In March 2019, hundreds of people gathered at the Aroostook Shrine Club headquarters in Presque Isle to purchase tickets in hopes of winning baskets that featured numerous prizes, much like the annual St. Apollonia Festival of Trees.

This year the Shrine Club was supposed to be held March 27-29, but with the onset of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, it was postponed to Friday-Sunday, May 29-31. The club added Friday to the festivities in response to the event’s popularity.

The Spring Basket Feztival will take place 5-8 p.m. Friday, May 29; 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday, May30; and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday, May 31, at the Aroostook Shrine Club, 390 Houlton Road in Presque Isle. An announcement of the winning tickets will occur soon after the event closes on the final day and will be live streamed on the club’s Facebook page.

Businesses and nonprofits can sign up as sponsors to contribute a basket of prizes on a first-come, first served basis. Shrine Club volunteers will sell $5 ticket packages during each day and will not charge an entrance fee. Proceeds from ticket sales will go toward the Aroostook Shrine Club.

Last year some of the prizes in the 59 baskets included children’s games and toys, bicycles, gift certificates, cooking materials, snacks and jewelry. Event organizer Blair McCartney said that the Shrine Club is expecting the number of baskets to reach or come close to the limit of 60 baskets.

“We’ve been blown away at the amount of support we’ve received from the people who donated baskets and those who came out last year,” McCartney said.

During all three days, the children can have their photos taken with the Easter Bunny and bring home Easter eggs with prizes inside. Seeing the happy faces of children who won baskets is one of the reasons why Shrine Club member Shawn Lahey enjoyed last spring’s feztival.

“I remember one little girl who won the Shriner’s Clown basket, and she had a smile bigger than her face because she loves clowns,” Lahey said.

Amidst concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, the Aroostook Shrine Club has looked to higher ranking officials in the Anah Shriners, who have been following guidelines set forth by the Maine Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention. They said they have received approval to move forward with plans for the Spring Basket Feztival.

While Aroostook County has not seen confirmed cases of the coronavirus, or COVID-19, the Maine CDC has confirmed several cases in southern parts of the state. Gov. Janet Mills has recommended that people postpone gatherings of more than 10 for at least 30 days.

Lahey noted that the Shrine Club added the Friday evening time slot to the feztival to give people many opportunities to attend. He encouraged people to follow the health advice issued by the Maine CDC in regards to the coronavirus as well as common winter illnesses like the flu and pneumonia.

“We don’t want to create hysteria. The only thing that would stop us from having the event would be if the CDC told us not to,” Lahey said. “If you feel sick, please don’t bother coming out, just like you wouldn’t have before the coronavirus.”

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