AUGUSTA — An annual festival held in Augusta every summer has come a long way from its roots as a raucous race down the Kennebec River.

The Whatever Race was stopped years ago – some participants had taken to drinking alcohol, and organizers didn’t want it to become dangerous. To continue the celebration in a family-friendly form, the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce began holding festivals in other parts the city, most recently in Capitol Park.

On Saturday, the festival’s evolution continued with several new offerings, including two bandstands from which country music and classic rock could be heard, and a motorized ride that resembled an old-fashioned steam train.

But its greatest change was actually a return: This year’s festival was held in plain view of the Kennebec River, in the newly renovated Mill Park.

Several visitors were impressed with the new space.

“I like the more central location,” said Michelle Noiles of Augusta, as she watched her 2-year-old son, Aiden, play in an inflatable bounce house. “I know the neighborhood enough, and it’s in walking distance for some people I know.”

Noiles also appreciated that the event was free and targeted toward children.

Charles Eichacker can be contacted at 621-5642 or at:

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