Caribou Cares About Kids coming back stronger than ever thanks to volunteers

CARIBOU, Maine — For the first time in many years, the Caribou Cares About Kids festival will feature four days of family-themed activities and events that volunteers expect will attract numerous visitors.

Caribou Cares About Kids will kick off Thursday, Aug. 11, and continue throughout the weekend, with events concluding on Sunday, Aug. 14. 

Though the city has hosted Caribou Cares About Kids for more than 30 years, in recent years the events were held in conjunction with Caribou Days. The latter events focused more on celebrating Caribou as a city, with the children’s events mostly being small activities at the recreation center.

But this year local volunteers are helping to make Caribou Cares About Kids a full-blown festival, with carnival games, hot-air balloon rides, basketball competitions, food vendors and several nights of music and other entertainment.

“We wanted to bring back the festival in a big way and give families something that they can truly enjoy,” said event volunteer Troy Haney.

Along with Caribou Parks and Recreation, Haney has been part of a group of volunteers looking to make Caribou Cares About Kids the destination event for local families and those visiting the city.

To keep all events free, Haney not only signed up his business — Haney’s Home, Farm and Garden — but also recruited three other sponsors: 180 Sealcoating, The County Federal Credit Union and Plourde Furniture Co.

While most Caribou Cares events have been free in the past, the sponsorships will allow families no-cost admission into shows that normally sell tickets, including Marco the Magician and comedian Justin McKinney. Those performers will take the stage at the rec center Friday, Aug. 12, and Saturday, Aug. 13, respectively.

“We want families to come, have a good time and not worry about whether they have enough money to attend,” Haney said.

Thanks to volunteers and sponsors like Haney, most events this year will be completely new to the festival, noted Parks and Recreation Superintendent Gary Marquis.

Throughout the weekend, most activities will take place at the rec center and Teague Park, located on Bennett Drive across from Caribou Community School. Even the Aug. 11 Thursdays on Sweden Street will move to Bennett Drive.

“Since the carnival is being held there, we thought it would be foolish to have our vendors on Sweden Street,” Marquis said.

Bennett Drive will be the center of activity that weekend, with kid-friendly competitions including a basketball hot shot, 3-on-3 basketball tournaments, corn hole, an egg toss, sack races and a Power Wheels demolition derby.

Many Aroostook County fire departments will gather on Bennett Drive Saturday, Aug. 13, for the annual firemen’s muster. During the muster, Caribou Fire & Ambulance plan to show off their oldest fire truck, “Old Engine One,” and celebrate its 100th birthday. Participating fire departments will take part in a special parade from Skyway Plaza to the rec center at 10 a.m. The muster will begin on Bennett Drive immediately after the parade, with an award ceremony concluding the events.

On that same day, the popular Caribou Cares parade will begin at 5:30 p.m. Participants do not need to register beforehand but will need to start lining up at Skyway Plaza at 4:30 p.m. The parade will travel down Bennett Drive and end at the Caribou Courthouse on Sweden Street. A classic car show will occur on Bennett Drive following the parade.

With a mostly new slate of events, Marquis said that the excitement around Caribou Cares has become much stronger than in recent years. Between the carnival vendors, special guests, volunteers and families, he and organizers are expecting thousands of people to be in Caribou that weekend.

“The flyers are flying out of our local stores. People were talking about it at our last Thursdays on Sweden. The energy is definitely there,” Marquis said. “If things go well, we’d like to keep the festival four days every year.”

A full schedule of Caribou Cares About Kids events can be found on the Caribou Parks and Recreation website and Facebook page.

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