JACOB HASKELL, 11, of Bowdoinham, makes it all the way across the string of wooden lobster crates during Celebrate Bowdoinham in 2016. (Times Record file photo)

BOWDOINHAM — It’s harvest time, so, what should you do with all that extra zucchini? 

Race ‘em!

The first ever zucchini races kick off at 11 a.m. Saturday at Celebrate Bowdoinham. The free event takes place at the skatepark. Decorate the zucchini as much or as little as you like — the only requirement is that the zucchini have wheels. No motors, though, and “no jet-propelled zucchini,” said Jan Marks, a board member for the Merrymeeting Arts Center, which organized the event.

It sounds like a good contest for a farming community where many a green thumb may find themselves with a bumper crop. Small or medium zucchini are said to be better for eating, but Saturday will determine if bigger is better for gravity-driven racers.

Marks said she’s heard the farms in town have been preparing to compete against one another in the races. There will be weight classes and if the farms show up with “souped-up zucchini,” they may go in their own class.

Competitors should meet at the skatepark behind the Merrymeeting Arts Center Studio by 11 a.m. so their zucchini can be weight and race number pinned on.

“I think it’s going to be a blast,” Marks said. 

“The prize is for the fastest in each class and a prize for the best decorated, and mostly, I think it’s going to be hysterical,” she said.

The zucchini races are just one of many events scheduled during the annual Celebrate Bowdoinham festival. The event opens today with the Chicken Run 5K race and the Kids 1-mile Fun Run. Contestants perform the ceremonial “chicken dance” before running a course that loops through town. The top 5K finishers get a basket of fresh organic Bowdoinham-grown produce. The event benefits the Bowdoinham Community School. Registration is $25 on race day for the 5K and $10 for the Fun Run.

The main event is Saturday at Mailly Waterfront Park on the banks of the Cathance River. 

The day begins with the parade at 10 a.m.  The waterfront opens after the parade with artists, crafters, local businesses and organizations showcasing their work. There is music all day in the Gazebo, local food vendors, a petting zoo and inflatable rides for kids and other games, including a lobster crate race, coin scramble, art activities, face painting, balloons and more. Kids get a hand stamp for $5 to play on the inflatables all day.

New this year, the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust will open the new 67-acre Red Rose Preserve Saturday, which includes a trail system accessed from the athletics fields next to Bowdoinham Community School. Horse-drawn wagons will transport people between Cathance Meadows and the preserve from 12:30-3:30 p.m.

Mt. Ararat High School senior Carson Estela has organized an all-you-can-eat spaghetti dinner starting at 5 p.m. at the fire station on Post Road as part of his capstone project, a high school graduation requirement. A junior firefighter, Estela said the event will raise money to pay for new fire gear for Bowdoinham Fire Department. Adults pay $10 to eat and kids under 5 eat for free.

A fireworks show ends the night at 8 p.m. 

Celebrating Bowdoinham’s history

The theme of the parade is the “Wild Wild West to the Roaring 20’s.” It covers 1880 to 1930, 50 years of change the Bowdoinham Historical Society focused on this year. The organization will have a display from the period along with a timeline at Celebrate Bowdoinham.

“We chose this time period because very few get to study it, even briefly, in high school because there is never time at the end of the year,” said Betsy Steen, a longtime member of the society and board member.

In Bowdoinham and across the country, it was an important 50 years of change.

“Almost everything we use and consider just absolutely essential for life, was invented in that timeframe, from television to cars to planes, aluminum, stainless steel, tinfoil, peanut butter, electric lights, and telephones were just four years before that,” Steen said. “Really everything. Crossword puzzles.”

Bowdoinham had its own innovators. One of them, Robert Spear, was a better inventor than businessman. Spear, born in Bowdoinham in 1827, figured out how to harness compressed air to make air brakes for trains. When approached by inventor George Westinghouse for the plans, Westinghouse was prepared to pay. 

“Take it. It’s yours to use only on railroad trains,” Spear reportedly told Westinghouse, which patented Spear’s invention in 1869, according to “Bowdoinham: The Bay The Land The People,” written in 2012.

Westinghouse Air Brake Co. was incorporated in 1869. The air brakes are still used on trains today.

The 50-year period in history changed the blueprint of Bowdoinham as well. In December 1902, a fire destroyed 15 buildings — most of the downtown district. Steen said it destroyed a hotel near the corner of River Road and Main Street where the cannon now sits and buildings between there and the railroad tracks. 

“It was pretty awful,” Steen said. “Nobody was hurt but a lot of people lost their businesses.”

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FIREWORKS ON THE BANKS of the Cathance River concluded Celebrate Bowdoinham in 2016. (Times Record file photo)

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