SACO – The largest parade in the city’s history will make its way down Main Street this morning, kicking off a five-week celebration of Saco’s 250th anniversary.

Volunteers and the city’s staff have worked for the better part of two years to put together a sesquibicentennial celebration that will bring the community together to honor its history.

The extended birthday party will begin with a parade at 10 a.m. that features nearly 100 groups, from Boy Scouts to a team of Clydesdale horses.

After the parade, elected officials from Saco and Biddeford will gather at the Meetinghouse in Biddeford for a reading of the proclamation of incorporation. Officials dressed in period clothing will read the entire 1762 proclamation that incorporated Pepperrellborough — now Saco — as a separate entity from Biddeford.

Other events planned through July 8 include a self-guided historic site hunt around the city, firehouse Bingo, guided walking tours, settlement demonstrations and an Old Home Street Fair.

On June 16, a preview of the Pilgrim’s Promise moving panorama will be held at City Hall. The preview will re-create the 19th century experience of panorama performances with piano music and narration.

The celebration will conclude July 8 with a closing ceremony at the old Saco Fire Station featuring the Centennial Brass Band playing antique instruments.

A complete list of events is on the city’s website.

“This is a really great time for the whole town to come together and unite as one,” said Camille Smalley, education manager at the Saco Museum. She will lead several guided tours during the next month, including one based on the diaries of John Haley, a Civil War veteran and the second librarian at Dyer Library.

The history of Saco dates to the days when English settlers discovered the area. Richard Vines and his company arrived in the Saco area in 1616, spending a winter on the banks of the Saco River. Permanent settlers arrived by 1630, and settlements on both sides of the river became known as Saco.

By 1718, the entire village was known as Biddeford. Pepperrellborough was founded on June 9, 1762, named in honor of the town’s benefactor, Sir William Pepperrell. The town changed its name back to Saco in 1805.

Johanna Hoffman, chairwoman of the 250th celebration planning committee, said preparing for the anniversary helped her better appreciate the city’s history — something she hopes community members will also experience.

“It’s as though the whole city is celebrating. I’ve never seen so much participation in all the years I’ve been doing community service in Saco,” she said. “It’s an amazing display of support and community pride.”

Residents may learn “neat little tidbits” about Saco that will spark more interest in the city’s history, said John Sherman, deputy director of Saco Parks and Recreation.

“It’s important for people to step back and recognize what’s in their own backyard,” he said. “This gives us an opportunity to showcase what Saco has to offer.”

Staff Writer Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

ggraham@mainetoday.com

Twitter: grahamgillian