Oppressive heat wasn’t enough to keep Mainers away from beaches, festivals and sports competitions Saturday – though it did force some adjustments in the near-record-breaking swelter.

Despite some records chatter late last week, Portland reached a mere 91 degrees, five degrees off a 70-year-old high for air temperature. Sanford appeared to be the hottest spot in the state at 94 degrees.

The “heat index,” which combines humidity and air temperature to describe how hot it feels, rose to 97 degrees in Portland, according to a meteorologist from the National Weather Service.

“A little bit of a sea breeze helped to cool things off in the mid- to late afternoon,” meteorologist Chris Legro said.

The annual Yarmouth Clam Festival saw a slightly lower turnout Saturday, according to organizers, but large crowds still milled about on Main Street during the hottest parts of the day.

Adrienne Nardi, executive director of the Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce, said organizers had put special measures in place to protect the festival’s official mascot, Steamer the Clam, from the heat.

Volunteers spent only about half an hour at a time in the full-body Steamer costume, which comes equipped with a belt of ice packs. After a shift is over, it’s straight to an air-conditioned trailer.

How would Nardi, who has taken a turn or two of her own as Steamer, describe the experience?

“Steamy,” she said.

Sandy Bowie, president of the Yarmouth Lions Club, said Saturday had brought fewer customers to her concessions stand than Friday.

“Today we’re just a little slower because of the heat,” she said, “but we’re hoping that once people get off the beach it’ll pick up.”

Matt Libby, another volunteer, wore a gray T-shirt drenched in sweat. He had been manning the French fry booth since early that morning, taking turns draping a wet towel over his face.

Aside from that heat-beating technique, he said, “You try to stay away from the fryolator.”

Nearby on Main Street, teams of local firefighters warmed up for the Firefighters’ Muster, a demonstration of their speed, skills and coordination on the scene.

Roland Bolduc, dressed as Elvis Presley, cools off with an ice cream cone in the shade of the Dairy Queen in Old Orchard Beach, with Hailey Munson, 9, of New York, on Saturday. Bolduc, who comes to Old Orchard Beach once a week from Biddeford, said the Elvis outfit is a bit warm on a day like Saturday, but the ocean breeze helps. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

In full view of the early-afternoon sun, fire and rescue workers from Yarmouth, North Yarmouth and a women’s group from all over the state sprinted to link up fire hoses.

Then they turned on the water and aimed for a Smokey the Bear cutout, trying to knock it down.

A couple of dozen small children – and a few game parents – gathered several feet behind. They squealed and twisted and jumped up and down as the spray reached beyond Smokey to soak them.

A man led his tiny, curly-haired terrier to a pool of hydrant water, and started to bathe the dog. “That feel better, buddy?” he said.

Yet the weather was enough to nix one aspect of the competition: the event held in full turnout gear, with suits and helmets.

“We would have keeled over,” said Patty Couture, one of the founding members of Female Firefighters of Maine, a statewide women’s group that participated in the muster.

Her hair still dripping from splashed-over water from the competition, Couture said her team had been hydrating heavily and grateful to catch any stray spray from a bucket or hose.

Elsewhere in Maine, the state identified cooling centers such as public libraries where people could seek refuge from the heat. At the Portland Public Library, patrons surfed the computers and strolled the aisles on Saturday afternoon.

“There’s definitely people coming in to fill water bottles,” said Elise Smorczewski, a senior library assistant.

Meanwhile, down in Saco, the 30th Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic, an all-star football game for recently graduated seniors, made changes to try to lessen the heat’s impact on players and fans.

Organizers backed up kickoff at Thornton Academy by 90 minutes to 5:30 p.m., and also reduced the amount of game time from 60 to 48 minutes.

Beachgoers appeared to have fared better than expected, according to a dispatcher for Old Orchard Beach, who said no heat-related incidents had been reported on the sand.

Visitors pack Old Orchard Beach, where temperatures reached the 90s on Saturday. The hot weather is expected to stick around through Sunday. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Emergency services in the waterfront town are accustomed to a few medical calls on days like these, the dispatcher said.

A spokesman for Maine Medical Center said the emergency room also had no significant heat-related cases as of 5 p.m. Saturday.

Mike and Robyn Dionne took their daughters – 9-year-old Josslyn and 5-year-old Annalyse – to Willard Beach in South Portland and then stopped at nearby Red’s Dairy Freeze for ice cream. They keep the air conditioning on at their Windham home for their two dogs, so they knew the house would be cool when they returned.

“Downstairs is like an ice cube,” said Annalyse, her tongue blue from her cotton candy shake.

Still, southern Maine had it comparatively good Saturday.

Late in the afternoon in Nashua, New Hampshire, the air temperature was still hovering around 95 degrees. Boston hit the same number just before 5 p.m., with a heat index of 107.

Casey Steeb and her extended family stopped at Red’s on Saturday afternoon for ice cream before heading home. Various family members spent two weeks in Maine, Steeb said, but they were beginning their drives to North Carolina and Florida. They lingered in the parking lot despite the temperatures, savoring the last of their vacation and knowing it wouldn’t get cooler as they headed south.

“It’s just going to get hotter and more humid,” said Steeb, 44, of Statesville, North Carolina.

Similar weather is expected Sunday in Maine, with highs in the low 90s in Portland. Thunderstorms could also move through the western part of the state in the morning.

Staff Writers Megan Gray and Steve Craig contributed to this report.


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