Hundreds come out for Van Buren’s ‘Christmas in July’ festival

10 months ago

VAN BUREN, Maine — Hundreds came out for Van Buren’s first-ever “Christmas in July” festival, which featured live music, food, a craft fair and activities like cornhole, bounce houses and boat rides.

The event’s name comes from Van Buren’s former moniker, “Christmas Town.” The town got this name in the 1950s because of its booming economy and a downtown full of shops.

Christmas in July was organized by the Van Buren Revitalization Association, a non-profit that is separate from the town government but works to improve Van Buren. The group consists of roughly from eight to 10 members, according to vice president Edmund Saucier.  

He said the town has been struggling for several years, and that once the members all started meeting in-person, they discovered that they were all born and raised in Van Buren.

“It is literally our community,” he said. “We’re all about the same age range, early 50s, and we decided we were going to make a difference.”

The group formed in 2021 and officially became a non-profit last year. They have since organized two Christmas parades in town.

Saucier said he pitched the Christmas in July event half-jokingly because the association didn’t usually take the Christmas parade banner down right away.

“I said ‘Why don’t we do Christmas in July?’ The sign’s already there. Let’s identify ourselves as Christmas Town. So we ended up going with it.”

Between association members, volunteers and vendors, Saucier said a little more than 40 people were involved with the event. 

One of the association’s goals was to unite the community. 

“We’re mask-free this summer and everything is somewhat back to normal,” Saucier said. “Needless to say, it was a great success. We had a great turnout.”

Festivities kicked off on July 28 with a 5K family fun “glow run” at the American Legion, which featured runners being covered with a powder that makes them glow. Proceeds from this event benefitted Project Grad.

But the major events took place on Saturday, July 29. The day began with an Acadian Village breakfast, followed by a pickleball tournament at the rec department, and then a craft fair at the community center. 

And throughout the day, several events and activities were held at the town’s boat landing. There was a cornhole tournament, live music from the band “Guilty Pleasure,” and food from two different vendors: The Food Dudes, who are based in Van Buren, and Maine-ly Meat ‘n Potatoes, who are based in Grand Isle. 

Saucier said the festivities would not have been possible without the collaboration of several town departments.

“Everybody worked together,” he said. “It was beautiful. There was no bickering. Everybody was on board.”

Van Buren Town Manager Luke Dyer said the event had the most people he had ever seen in town in over a decade. 

“I would guess there were more than 1,000 people that ended up at that event,” Dyer said. “The comments and the smiles really said everything about the success of that event. I had a ton of people come up to me and thank us for putting on that event, and I always redirected them, that it was really the revitalization association that had done it.”

Saucier said he and the association hope this is the first of many annual “Christmas in July” festivals.

“The community came together,” he said. “All corners all came together, and we haven’t seen that in a long, long time. So if there’s one thing that I take away from this, it’s that the community can come together, so we’re going to try to keep doing more.”