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July 5, 2013

Photos by Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Thousands watch the brilliant displays during the Stars and Stripes Spectacular celebration Thursday along Portland’s Eastern Promenade. More than 30,000 people attended the show, police said.

Portland's pop, pyrotechnics awe thousands

By Noel K. Gallagher
ngallagher@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — Nothing may be as American as apple pie, but Portland’s Fourth of July was all about American Pie.

Special guest Don McLean sang his signature rock hit “American Pie” accompanied by the Portland Symphony Orchestra on Thursday at the annual Stars and Stripes Spectacular, the city’s fireworks and concert celebration on the Eastern Promenade.

More than 30,000 people attended the show, and there were no arrests and no reports of injuries, police said.

“That was awesome!” exclaimed Priscilla Plumpton, of South Portland, as the final crescendo of fireworks faded into the night. “You become more proud to be an American after that. It’s crazy, but it’s true!”

McLean, a Camden resident, had the crowd singing along to the chorus and up and dancing during his performance.

“All right, are you ready to rumble? Here she comes!” McLean said as he started to sing.

Jeff and Sheila Pettyjohn, along with their 5-year-old son Ethan, were happy to join in, dancing in a circle and waving their glowsticks to the beat.

“I love his songs,” said Sheila Pettyjohn, of Waterboro.

Gabe Cyr said his family had been out on the Eastern Prom all afternoon.

“We’ve been having a great time,” said Cyr, of Gorham, while his two young daughters played peekaboo with passers-by from their bright-blue sun shelter. “We couldn’t have asked for a better spot.”

Katelyn Cyr, 6, was eager for the fireworks. Sort of.

“I don’t like them when they’re loud,” she confided in a soft voice. But she and her 2-year-old sister, Abigail, were dressed for the holiday, with Katelyn in a sequined red, white and blue tiara, and Abigail all blond curls and red ribbons.

Once the fireworks began, people in the crowd began to oooh and ahhh.

“They’re so beautiful,” said Plumpton, who was watching the show with a group of friends. “They should do it once a week.”

The daylong festivities in Portland included an all-you-can-eat ice cream festival to benefit an anti-childhood hunger initiative, and a reading of the Gettysburg Address and the Declaration of Independence by local historian Herb Adams and Mayor Michael Brennan.

At the promenade, the Portland Symphony Orchestra performed for more than an hour, from superhero-themed popular music such as the theme from “Star Trek” and “Superman,” to patriotic standards such as “The Star-Spangled Banner” and Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.

The Stars and Stripes Spectacular is organized by a nonprofit group that took over funding of the city’s annual fireworks bash four years ago, when the funds for it were cut from the city budget. It’s now funded by sponsorships and donations.

McLean has said he was inspired to write “American Pie,” which references the 1959 plane crash that killed early rock stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson), by his memories of learning about the accident while working as a paperboy.

But it’s also filled with pop culture imagery and Americana – McLean has sometimes referred to it as a “rock and roll dream.”

Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

ngallagher@pressherald.com



“American Pie” songwriter and Thursday’s special guest artist Don McLean performs with the Portland Symphony Orchestra. McLean, a Camden resident, had the crowd singing along to the chorus of his hit song.

The microphone could use some adjusting as 11-year-old Hope Carroll of Portland gets ready to read her contest-winning essay, “What Freedom Means to Me,” during the Stars and Stripes Spectacular Fourth of July celebration Thursday on Portland’s Eastern Prom.

Maestro Robert Moody conducts the Portland Symphony Orchestra on the covered stage on Cutter Street. The PSO performed superhero-themed popular music and patriotic standards.



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