Editor’s Note: The following is the second part of our series highlighting some of the top news stories from 2017. This article features events from July to December.
Thousands of spectators filled Houlton’s historic downtown for the 31st annual Midnight Madness celebration. The event typically draws as many as 6,000 people to Market Square during the course of the evening. Initial indications were that this year’s event far exceeded the 6,000 mark, but there was not an exact estimate on just how many people attended.
The Fourth of July parade, sponsored by the Greater Houlton Chamber of Commerce, was once again a visual treat for those lining Main Street, Market Square and Military Street. Featuring enough floats to stretch out for one mile, Houlton’s parade once again featured a wide array of entries, from the Anah Temple Shrine go-karts and McGills’ Community Band to beauty pageant queens and of course plenty of tractors.
Southern Aroostook’s longtime band director, Kermit McGary, retires after 35 years. McGary has kept the beat going at Southern Aroostook Community School, teaching music to youngsters from pre-kindergarten to grade 12. He also taught one year at Schenck High School in East Millinocket. Music has been a part of Kermit McGary’s life for as long as he can recall.
The Houlton Police Department has a new, second-in-command to help lead the force. Theron Bickford, a seven-year member of the HPD, was promoted to the rank of lieutenant at a swearing-in ceremony during the Houlton Town Council meeting. Bickford has been serving as the interim-lieutenant since the retirement of longtime second-in-command Dan Pelletier back in February.
Houlton received $300K grant for new fire truck. The town needs to replace the aging pumper tanker, which consists of a 1980 GMC fuel chassis and a 1965 aluminum GMC tank. The funds were awarded through FEMA’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant program.
The fifth annual Houlton International Wings and Wheels fly-in and cruise-in returned with a full slate of events at the airport. Vacationland Skydiving once again offered opportunities for tandem jumps out of an airplane.
There is a golden glow permeating downtown Houlton these days, thanks to a restoration project at the Aroostook County Superior Courthouse. The clock tower cupola and weather vane were restored to their original grandeur with the application of gold leaf, thanks to the efforts of a private fundraiser, spearheaded by Houlton attorney Richard Rhoda. That fundraiser saw nearly $16,000 collected for the project.
A ribbon-cutting and crowds of visitors christened the new Patten Gateway to the Katahdin Woods and Waters Scenic Byway in a special ceremony. The Patten Gateway is the first of the Katahdin Woods and Waters Scenic Byway gateway projects to be completed over the next few years along the 89-mile Katahdin Woods and Waters Scenic Byway.
Nearly 150 individuals came out for the second annual Maine Walk Like MADD event. This year’s event raised just over $13,000 for the second straight year. In comparison, the first unofficial walk held in Houlton back in 2010 raised $400. All of the funds raised from the walk will remain in the state. That money is used to educate youths and parents about the consequences of drinking and driving, plus provide volunteer training to support the MADD mission.
Potato Feast Days once again draw big crowds. The doll parade had over 50 participants with the police and the ice cream truck escorting the group, with Miss Maine Princess, Bailey Soucy, leading the way. Touch a Truck on Broadway once again proved to be immensely popular with area children as the sounds of dump truck horns blaring rang out through the downtown. The miniature tractor pulls gave out more than 110 ribbons and 50-cent pieces to local children.
The Houlton Police Department joined forces with the non-profit group Aid for Kids to collect supplies for those in the greater Texas area affected by Hurricane Harvey.
The Aroostook County Action Program marked the one year anniversary of its “Community Cupboard” program at both its Presque Isle and Houlton locations.
Houlton Rotarian’s “E-Waste Recycling Day” event shattered last years figures. It was estimated that the Houlton event generated about 80,000 pounds of material, filling nearly 200 pallets. Donations also were up this year. Those disposing of materials were asked to give a donation to the Rotary Club to assist with the program expenses. This year, residents donated about $4,000.
The Ludlow Board of Selectmen bid a fond farewell to selectman Dana Miller following his retirement from the board.
The Houlton Fire Department partnered with the American Red Cross to provide free smoke detectors to anyone who needs one as part of a new campaign. Residents could sign up for as many free smoke alarms as are necessary for their homes, according to Houlton Fire Chief Milton Cone.
Purple ribbons honoring the memories of individuals who lost their lives because of domestic violence abuse popped up around the town as part of a month-long awareness campaign.
The ribbons, were located at the Maine State Police Troop F barracks on U.S. Route 1 and the Aroostook County Jail on Military Street, were reminders that although great strides have been made to raise awareness for domestic violence abuse, much more work must be done to eradicate it.
The Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians held the tribe’s 20th annual candlelight vigil Oct. 4 to raise awareness for the cause. A small gathering turned out for this year’s vigil, which featured ceremonial tribal drumming from the Miqwapon Drummers, lighting of candles in memory or honor of victims, and the lighting of a ceremonial tree outside the HBMI gymnasium, followed by a meal.
The 2017 Aid for Kids’ annual Educational Fair was once again an overwhelming success, drawing hundreds of people to the Millar Civic Center Saturday, Sept. 30. The event, which started several years ago when Ellis was approached by officials from Bess the Book Bus, to partner for an event. Bess the Book Bus is a mobile literacy outreach organization from Florida that provides free new books for children of all ages.
Creepy clowns, zombies and classic movie screen horror villains were once again springing to life as part of the Linneus Haunted Hayride. The hayride opened Saturday at the Linneus Fire Station and continued with shows Saturday, Oct. 21, Friday, Oct. 27, and Saturday, Oct. 28. Carrie Palmer, a longtime organizer of the hayride, said this year’s hayride had been changed from previous years, to increase the “scream” factor.
A record-breaking crowd turned out to help raise money for local people going through cancer treatments as part of the Bridge to Hope walk. A total of 300 walkers participated in this year’s event, raising a record $11,089. The mission of the non-profit group called “Bridge to Hope” is helping people in southern Aroostook County with financial support. The organization has helped hundreds of families over the past 12 years.
The staff of the Houlton Pioneer Times picked up 10 awards in writing, photography, design and advertising from the Maine Press Association on Oct. 21, during the organization’s annual awards banquet at the Atlantic Oceanside Hotel & Event Center in Bar Harbor. The Houlton Pioneer Times also took home second-place in the General Excellence category for its division in the small weekly category of the 2017 MPA Better Newspaper Contest. The award is the highest editorial honor the MPA gives each year.
Nearly 100 veterans, police officers and family members filled the Hodgdon High School gymnasium for the 16th annual Veterans’ Day Breakfast. The ceremony featured a special guest in attendance as Floyd Smith, 93, of Hodgdon was recognized for his service with the presentation of a painting. Smith was a member of the U.S. Army Air Corps and was a prisoner of war in Romania.
Veterans from all branches of the service were honored during a brief ceremony in Houlton’s Monument Park. Kris Watson, acting commander for The American Legion Chester L. Briggs Post 47 in Houlton, welcomed the small group gathered on a bitterly cold and blustery morning.
William D. MacDonald was unanimously approved as Houlton’s next town manager during a special council meeting Nov. 6. MacDonald replaced Butch Asselin, who left the post after three years to pursue a similar job in Oxford. Asselin also served as Houlton’s police chief for seven years (2007-2014).
The wonderful world of Dr. Seuss was on full display at the Houlton Community Arts Center as Houlton Middle-High School students gave three rousing performances of “Seussical.” Featuring the popular Seuss characters of “The Cat in the Hat,” “Horton the Elephant,” and “Mayzie LaBird,” the production drew strongly on the story arc of “Horton Hears a Who!”
Holiday lights illuminated the night sky in Houlton as thousands of people gathered along the streets and in Market Square to watch the annual Holiday Light Parade. More than 20 floats were featured in this year’s parade, which according to Houlton Police Chief Tim DeLuca, drew more than 2,500 people to the Shiretown.
Crafters and those seeking holiday gifts were in full supply for the annual Holiday Craft Fair at the Gentle Memorial Building. For 34 years, the recreation center has hosted the fair, which has grown steadily from a couple dozen vendors in its its year to nearly 60 this year.
Officials with the Houlton Rotary Club are declaring the 62nd Annual Radio, TV and Internet Auction another smashing success. The auction, held Nov. 20-22, grossed nearly $52,000, which includes money from bidding, the sale of fuel oil raffle tickets, advertising, sponsorships and donations. The bidding alone topped $40,000, which is an increase over the 2016 auction, according to Nancy Ketch, Houlton Rotarian.
Canadian mining firm Wolfden Resources started exploration for metals on land in the unorganized territories in northern Penobscot County. Ontario-based Wolfden Resources began test drilling at Pickett Mountain and has voluntarily filed an exploration work plan with the Maine Land Use Planning Commission.
Three local groups — Wilderness Walk for Warriors, Houlton Rocks! and the Greater Houlton Area Chamber of Commerce — banded together to create and display specially designed hand-painted rocks. Several artists from the Houlton Rocks group agreed to help paint images on the rocks from photographs of fallen Maine servicemen from Aroostook County. The larger stones are part of a roving display that will be featured in storefronts throughout Houlton in the coming months.