Here we are at the end of 2019, and it’s time for a couple of important birthdays. My oldest child turned 21 this week, which makes me feel old indeed (though my 3-year-old’s antics make me feel even older). And here is the great state of Maine, turning 200 and looking great for its age.

A float featuring a Pilgrim trading post during one of many parades held to celebrate Maine’s centennial in 1920. Maine Historical Society

During the state centennial 100 years ago, Bath was looking at the end of one era and the beginning of another. The last sailing ship slid down the ways at the Percy and Small shipyard in 1920, and then the yard closed for good. This means that the era of wooden shipbuilding has now passed out of living memory, except for a few lucky souls who were babies at the time. Women also got the vote in 1920, which means that virtually nobody can remember a time when women did not have a voice in politics.  A century later, Maine finally elected a female governor.

The real birthday bash was down in Portland, where a 10-day celebration had been in the planning stages for three years.  Held from June 26 to July 5, the Centennial celebration had a different theme every day. Opening day featured a State Exposition held at the Portland Exposition Building. According to the official program, the purpose was to show goods made and sold in the state of Maine and to strengthen the connections between Maine’s businessmen and industries.

June 27 was Historical Day, which would have been my favorite. Exercises were held at the historic First Parish Church, with the Hon. James P. Baxter, president of the Maine Historical Society, in charge. The governor, the Maine Supreme Court, and other government officials were in attendance. Later there was a parade of floats that celebrated Maine history, each drawn by horses.

June 28 was Musical Festival Day, which literally started with a bang. A 100-gun salute at Monument Square went off at 7 a.m., and a cacophony of church bells, factory whistles, etc. went off an hour later. A parade of many bands and musical artists followed, featuring patriotic standards, custom songs written for the occasion, and classics by John Phillips Sousa.  Interestingly, daylight fireworks were planned for 6 p.m., something I’ve never seen before.

June 29 was the official Exposition Day. You could visit submarines and warships at the dock, and watch their crews compete in sports. You could visit an Indian village, watch a motion picture about Maine, or even take an airplane ride.

June 30 was Civic Parade Day, featuring the Red Cross and various fraternal organizations. July 1 was State of Maine Day, when all serving and previous members of the state government were invited out to a clambake at Peak’s Island. Maine Women’s day was July 2, which must have been exciting for all the women who were about to get the vote. Entertainment consisted of several female opera singers. The party turned into Mardi Gras night later on, with dancing in the streets, masks, costumes, and fun until 1 a.m.

July 3 was Veteran Fireman’s Day, with another parade. July 4, being on a Sunday, was Church Services Day, with special services being held at churches across the city. I suppose it must have been unseemly to celebrate Independence Day on a Sunday, so that celebration was moved to Monday, July 5. That day featured a parade of “Horribles and Antiques” first thing in the morning, followed by a military parade, another historical float parade, and, finally, some fireworks.

As I’ve said before, our ancestors certainly knew how to party.  I hope the bicentennial celebration can measure up.

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