Turnpike officials forecast traffic volume up 7 percent

A sunny forecast for the Fourth of July holiday weekend means there will be plenty of people traveling, according to the Maine Turnpike Authority.

Turnpike officials said the weather forecast, stable fuel prices and a general trend toward increased highway travel are expected to boost traffic volumes at the York toll plaza by 7 percent compared to last year, the Associated Press reported.

More than 700,000 vehicles are expected to enter the turnpike between York and Augusta over the four-day weekend, said turnpike spokesman Dan Paradee.

Nearly 241,000 of those vehicles are expected to pass through the York plaza, the key conduit for summer visitors entering the state, Paradee said.


Barbershop chorus faced tough convention challenge

The Downeasters Barbershop Chorus from Yarmouth finished 27th among 28 choruses who competed in the Barbershop Harmony Society’s Philadelphia International Convention on Friday night.

It was the first time that the 60-year-old chorus made it to the international competition, representing the Northeast District, which includes New England, New York and the Canadian Maritimes.

“We thought we did great. The crowd loved us. The judges did not,” said Richard Roberge, one of 42 members in the chorus that includes singers from across southern Maine.

The Downeasters sang “Who’ll Take My Place When I’m Gone” and “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.”

Roberge said the competition was “unbelievable,” with the top prize going to a California chorus with about 100 younger members and a paid director and choreographer.

“It was still a great experience,” Roberge said. “We’re still fired up. We saw the competition. We saw what it takes.

Hopefully, we’ll win the district competition again next year and be able to go to the next international competition in Kansas City.”


Little River Lighthouse will be opening to the public

A lighthouse that was once considered an endangered historic property will soon be open to the public, according to the Associated Press.

The Friends of Little River Lighthouse will host an open house on July 10 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The lighthouse is located on Little River Island, off the coast of Cutler, near Machias.

In 1998, Maine Historic Preservation listed the lighthouse among the state’s Ten Most Endangered Historic Properties, according to the friends group’s Web site. The American Lighthouse Foundation took ownership of the island in 2002.

Established in 1847, the present lighthouse was built in 1876. It’s 41 feet tall and constructed of brick and steel. The site also includes a boat house built in 1881 and a keeper’s house built in 1888.

The friends group will provide free boat rides to the 15-acre island, departing from the town landing in Cutler.

Refreshments will be served.


Baldacci says holiday a time to celebrate all that’s good

The July 4th weekend is a time to celebrate all that’s good about America and its people, and take stock of out place in history, Gov. John Baldacci said Saturday in his weekly address.

After the smoke from the sparklers clears and the sound of patriotic music fades, Baldacci said, we will return to the circumstances we face today. He said people are upset with high unemployment, the Gulf Coast disaster and discord in Washington.

But today’s troubles “will only be short passages” in the story of our country, the governor said, and just as we overcame the Great Depression, we will overcome this recession.

Baldacci also expressed gratitude and respect for members of the military who are serving in harsh conditions, far from family and friends.


Shipyard workers evacuated after break-shelter fire

Workers at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard were evacuated as a precaution after a small fire broke out in an employee break shelter.

Shipyard spokesman Gary Hildreth says the fire was reported about 4:15 p.m. Friday near Berth 12. It was in an area frequented by employees on their lunch break. No one was injured.

Hildreth says the fire was immediately extinguished and the cause is being investigated.


Fireworks permits withheld because of hot, dry forecast

The weather forecast is showing a hot and dry July 4th, and at least one New Hampshire community is not issuing a fireworks permit for that reason.

No permits are being issued in Epping for the holiday.

WMUR-TV reports state Fire Marshal Bill Degnan says fireworks can quickly lead to fires. He says a professional display is the safest.