PORTLAND — Even without the governor’s famously purloined highway sign, Maine was clearly open for business Sunday.

In particular, the business of lemonade.

Seven hundred fifty-three children signed up for the inaugural Maine Lemonade Day, an event that organizers hope will kindle the youngsters’ entrepreneurial spirit while also raising their financial acumen and charitable inclinations.

“What a perfect day for lemonade,” said Joe Milne, his 8-month-old son Oliver in his arms as he strolled under sunny blue skies on Congress Street. “You couldn’t ask for better weather.”

Milne and his wife, Daniela, had been looking forward to this day after seeing signs and posters spring up all over Munjoy Hill. They put their dog Kayla, a Chihuahua mix, on a leash, grabbed Oliver’s stroller and stopped at four lemonade stands as well as a park.

“It seemed like it was a really good thing for the kids,” Joe Milne said. “Each one of them had a charity they were working with, and I thought that was really neat. It gets the kids to think about more than just themselves, more than just making money. They’re making money for a cause.”

Milne proclaimed the freshly squeezed batch adorned with a sprig of mint at the Maine Lemonade Cooperative his favorite, although a slushy version around the corner also caught his fancy.

Seven-year-old Sofia Democracy, the redheaded proprietress at the cooperative along with buddies Ceiba Crow and Avery Fraser, said they planned to donate a portion of their profits to the Teacher Appreciation Week at her East End Community School.

Farther up the hill, across from the fire station at the top of Munjoy Hill, 9-year-old Reid Myhaver poured a visitor a cup of ginger lemonade — “our best seller” — and apologized for running out of a strawberry version.

Stationed in front of Fuller Glass, across the street from Colucci’s Market where a competing stand had been offering $1 lemonade with optional tapioca balls marketed as “alien eggs,” Myhaver opted for a lower price point.

“When we saw the alien lemonade for a dollar,” he said, “we decided to go 25 cents less.”

Sitting beside Reid was his mother, Andrea Myhaver, with a plastic yellow tablecloth covering a desk that usually holds up her computer.

“I think he learned about a business plan,” she said. “We went through and figured out how much everything would cost. He did a good job with that.”

Her son opened a plastic cash register and exclaimed, “We’ve got over $103 and that’s not even counting (coins)!”

“My plan is to pay back the money that I owe my mom, because she got basically everything,” he said. “Then I’m going to donate to the Red Cross. Then I’m hoping to save up a little. And if I have enough after that, I hope I can buy the Wii I’m saving up for. Which I already have $150 saved up towards it.”

Reid also put in a plug for his friend Laura Fuller, owner of the design studio behind him.

“She does great work,” he said.

Elsewhere on the hill, a half-dozen children of African immigrants sold lemonade outside the Root Cellar. It was the culmination of six weeks worth of planning, said Lisa Valentine, who helped mentor the group.

Each child signing up for Lemonade Day received a workbook that basically served as a business plan, said Valentine, whose company donated backpacks to the cause.

“It’s funny,” she said. “My first meeting with them, they were all about the money. ‘How much are we going to make?’

“But one of the concepts is, you get to spend a little, you save a little and you share a little. Their sharing portion goes to the Root Cellar.”

Over the past few weeks, Valentine said she saw a growing awareness of the other aspects of business, of meeting people and improving your product (they had a tasting session) and giving back to your community.

“It was really cool to see their priorities shift,” Valentine said. “I think it really helped, too, with this group, because they rely on the support and services of the Root Cellar. They’re there after school every day. They see where that money will go, so they were definitely on board with that.”

Around the corner from the Root Cellar, 6-year-old Stella Gartland and her 8-year-old brother, Malcolm, offered a choice of pink or yellow lemonade for 50 cents. For 50 cents more, customers could also receive ice.

They each made a sign, and hung them from their gray clapboard house near the top of Fox Street.

Some of their profits, Malcolm said, will go toward defraying the cost of a dozen bike helmets purchased recently and given out Sunday morning to local immigrant children. Malcolm said he also planned to spend a little of his hard-earned gains.

“I think it’s helped Malcolm,” said his father, Jonathan Gartland. “He’s keeping track of the sales, which ties into some of the stuff they learned in school about making charts and managing things.”

Kate Krukowski Gooding, executive director of Lemonade Day Maine, said the program got started in Houston four years ago.

By last year it had spread to 13 cities and included 66,000 children who raised $6 million and donated a third of it to charity. She called it a spend-save-share model.

“We’re going to have it the first Sunday (of June) every year,” she said. “I don’t know of any kid (involved this year) who is not planning to do it again.”

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:

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