Mari Eosco is coordinator of this year’s Bath Heritage Days & Music Festival. Alex Lear / The Forecaster

BATH — Heritage Days, the city’s five-day celebration around Independence Day, is back next week with a new beer garden and a slight title change.

The Bath Heritage Days & Music Festival is the new appellation, a nod to the many stage performances the nearly 50-year-old tradition offers.

“We’re putting some emphasis on the fact that we have over 30 bands that are free for people to come and see,” coordinator Mari Eosco, who has long worked with Main Street Bath in organizing the annual event, said June 28. She is a past director of the organization and the City Council chairwoman.

“We added ‘& Music Festival’ to ‘Bath Heritage Days’ to really emphasize that, to get people to come and see those bands, and experience everything else,” Eosco said. “People really like music festivals.”

Running from Wednesday, July 3, to Sunday, July 7, Heritage Days has a Waterfront Park Stage lineup that includes Jason Ward and the West End Blues, as well as the Mallett Brothers Band the first day. The Fourth of July offers Tumbledown, Chunkk, Papa Tim’s Desperate Man’s Blue Explosion, Music with a Message, Prince cover band Dean Ford & the Beautiful Ones, and Pat Colwell and the Soul Sensations. July 5 has Elvis Presley impersonator Robert Lewis, Joseph Gallant, and the Masterstroke QUEEN Experience.

On July 6 there’s the Tony Dance Studio, Volunteer Jazz Band, Averill Lovely and the Lovelies, Lauren Crosby, John Hughes Radio, Joel Thetford, and SeepeopleS. The final day showcases Astral Pines, Seekins Drive, the Downeast Soul Coalition, Sons of Quint, Jenny Lou Drew and the Bath Municipal Band.

The Library Park Gazebo Stage also offers the Bath Swing Band on July 3, Rob Duquette and Charles Bernier on July 6, and the Big Chips Trio July 7.

A full schedule of musical and non-musical activities is available at

The Bath Heritage Days & Music Festival will run July 3-7.

The beer garden, with local brews from Flight Deck Brewing and the Bath Brewing Co., will operate at the Waterfront Park pavilion from 5-9:30 p.m. July 3 and 5, and noon-9:30 p.m. the other three days.

“This is really a trial run,” with proceeds going to Main Street Bath, Eosco said. “So this is something that (the two companies are) doing as a volunteer effort, as a donation, to help Main Street with fundraising.”

She said the cost of running Heritage Days has increased from $52,000 in 2006 to about $80,000 now.

“We’re essentially providing the same types of opportunities for people, but the costs of services have gone up significantly,” Eosco said, referring, for example, to trash and portable bathrooms.

Pointing at the list of sponsors published in the Heritage Days pamphlet, she added, “these sponsors are really the ones who make it possible to have 30 free bands.”

Eosco said Main Street Bath and the city have “heard over and over again that people would like free activities, which is great. But I think we all need to keep in mind that nothing’s really free. It’s got to come from somewhere.”

An outdoor festival that serves in many ways as a fundraiser relies on good weather, particularly given the tens of thousands of people who attend. Rain can be a deterrent, as can brutally hot weather.

Maintaining a volunteer workforce is challenging, too. When Main Street took over Heritage Days in 2003, “there were a lot more people who were jumping up to volunteer and take things on,” Eosco said.

“There’s a generational change that’s happened since 2003,” moving from a volunteer base of many retired people to one where both parents in a family are working full time and have less time to spend, she added. “We’re the sandwich generation, where we’re taking care of our children and our parents. … People are busy.”

Other activities

This year offers two nights of fireworks along the Kennebec River waterfront: at 9 p.m. or dark on July 4, and at the same time Sunday to close out the celebration.

The Fourth of July kicks off at City Hall with a 1-mile Fun Run at 7:15 a.m. and 5-mile road race at 8 a.m. Hillhouse Assisted Living hosts a Strawberry Shortcake Social at Library Park from 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m. The 10 a.m. Independence Day Parade will proceed along Centre and Front streets.

The Mary E, a 1906 two-masted clipper schooner that has begun offering tours from the Maine Maritime Museum, will be available for tours at the Waterfront Dock July 6 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. The 170th annual Fireman’s Muster is expected to charge up the crowds at the north end of Front Street that day from noon-3 p.m. The annual Chili-Chowder Fest, hosted this year by the Bath Youth Meetinghouse and Skatepark, runs at 26 Summer St. from 3-5:30 p.m.

The “Front Street Shuffle” antique car show is a highlight on July 7 from 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

Smokey’s Greatest Show and Carnival runs all five days at Waterfront Park. A Library Book Sale starts July 3 for members only at Library Park, and is open to all from July 4-6. Food and other vendors will be open July 4-7 at Waterfront Park, as well as July 6 and 7 at Library Park.

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