It’s a little after noon at the Maine Recreation and Park Association’s Entertainment Showcase, and Johnna Dionne is doing a little of everything. First, there’s her job – manning a booth, handing out brochures and sample CDs, and answering questions about Wavelength, the band she manages.

Then, there’s scouting for talent for Scarborough’s 350th anniversary celebration, which is pretty well booked, but you never know. And, between sniffs from a bad cold, she’s also conducting an interview.

“It’s been a full-time job, basically,” she said of her work for the committee.

She greets a new visitor with a perky smile, seemingly unbothered by the cold, the hubbub, the multi-tasking or the name tag that spells her first name wrong. (It’s Johnna, after her father John, not Johanna.) After sending her visitor on her way with a sample CD, Dionne slips easily back to discussing the Scarborough 350th Celebration.

A native of Millinocket, a paper mill town of about 5,200 at the northern tip of the Appalachian Trail – yes, like many Maine towns, it smelled like eggs – Dionne, 46, had an international career before she found herself in Scarborough about 11 years ago.

She began working for a paper company as a secretary, which led to customer services and sales and marketing, which led her to sales training and travel all over the country – often to Finland – to conduct training seminars.

About 12 years ago, she became a stay-at-home mom, raising sons Christopher, 9, and Alex, 10, and managing Wavelength. Her husband, Paul, is a musician in the band, which plays popular classics for weddings and events.

When she heard about the 350th celebration, she thought it might be a good opportunity for Wavelength to perform, so she talked to some people and went to some committee meetings.

One thing led to another, and the next thing Dionne says she knew, she was asked to cahir the entertainment committee.

“I said, ‘I don’t know a lot of people in Scarborough,'” she recalls. “They said, ‘That’s OK.’ … I had to get sworn in. That was a little scary.'”

At first, Dionne said, she “really didn’t have a vision of the event” for which she was supposed to line up entertainment. She went to more meetings, and watched the 350th committee’s ideas begin to take shape.

“People wanted it to be historical,” she said. “I started saying, ‘Well, I have some ideas,’ and that’s what happened.”

To line up the groups that will be performing at Scarborough’s biggest event in at least 50 years, Dionne did a lot of research, both face-to-face and online, as well as listening to demos and feedback from residents, from children to seniors.

“We wanted (to suit) a variety of different tastes and different ages,” she said. “We wanted to … have lots going on all the time. We wanted … to bring in some pop bands that would draw a crowd.

After finding a band that seemed like a good fit, there was the really hard work – negotiating with agents over schedules, terms and contracts, lining up insurance, and getting everyone to agree on anything.

“Insurance?” she said. “This is the first time Scarborough’s done anything like this.”

So far, musical groups Dionne has lined up include the Dave Rowe Trio, Castlebay, Wavelength, Mac McHale’s Old Time Radio Gang, The Centennial Brass Band, King Memphis and the Italian Heritage Band. The groups’ styles are as eclectic as their names, ranging from “authentic Maine music” to Celtic to old-fashioned country, rockabilly, and classical 1800s music played with instruments no longer seen in your average symphony orchestra.

The headliner is still under wraps. Dionne says terms of the contract have yet to be finalized. But she promises the main act will have teens and 20-somethings screaming.

“They’re very well-known in the Portland area,” she said. “I wanted to make this a memorable event, so the kids now will grow up and have the 400th and they’ll remember this.”


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