BATH — Following the cancelation of Bath Heritage Days, an annual five-day Fourth of July festival that draws thousands to the city’s downtown, business owners are mourning the loss of one of some of their busiest days of the year. However, others see it as a potential respite.

The festival, which usually includes live music, a carnival, craft show, fireworks and a Fourth of July parade, was canceled last week due to concerns about coronavirus. Main Street Bath, the local chapter of a national network that seeks to revitalize downtowns and promote economic development, puts on the events each year.

This would have been the 48th year of Bath Heritage Days.

“Heritage Days is an enormous expense,” said Amanda McDaniel, executive director of Main Street Bath. “We couldn’t, in good conscience, ask our community to fund that. Our businesses will be in a different place when (the coronavirus pandemic) ends.”

The festival costs about $80,000 to run and is funded by community members, local businesses and the city, according to McDaniel.

“Heritage Days draws anywhere from 20,000 to 30,000 people from across the nation,” said McDaniel.

Lisa-Marie Stewart, co-owner of Lisa-Marie’s Made in Maine on Front Street, said Bath Heritage Days are some of her busiest days of the year and that boost in business would help her stay afloat after operating solely on online sales due to coronavirus restrictions.

“Bath Heritage Days is one of the best weekends for me,” said Stewart. “The revenue it brings varies from year to year based on the weather, but we do very well.”

Stewart said the business Heritage Days draws accounts for 3-4% of the store’s annual revenue.

“I’m going to see a financial hit, but conscience-wise, I know canceling it is the right move,” said Stewart. “It’s just something we have to swallow this year.”

While retailers like Lisa-Marie’s Made in Maine will miss the customers, some in food service see a silver lining.

“The Fourth of July is our busiest day of the year and can be hard to staff for,” said Tonnie Schultz, owner of Cafe Creme, a coffee shop on the corner of Front and Centre Streets. “We don’t have the time to do what we do as well as we normally do it because it’s so busy.”

Schultz doesn’t know how much of her annual revenue Heritage Days brings but said she usually sees double to triple times the business of a normal day.  However, that demand from customers takes a toll on her staff and her equipment.

“We always have a lot of equipment failures during Heritage Days and my ice machine can’t keep up,” said Schultz. “My staff are usually running to Brackett’s Market and bringing back huge bags of ice, usually on foot because there’s no parking.”

This would’ve been Schultz’s 18th Heritage Days in business.

“Although I’m sad to see Heritage Days canceled, I’m interested to see how the Fourth of July plays out without it,” said Schultz. “Any other year, this might be a nice break, but right now the business would be nice to have.”

Around the corner, Michael Quigg, owner of Beale Street Barbeque on Water Street, is less concerned about the potential revenue loss.

“(Heritage Days) is a double-edged sword,” said Quigg. “There’s no parking and traffic is terrible. That said, I don’t think we’ll do better because it’s canceled.”

Quigg said early July has always been busy for him due to the influx of tourists, so he doesn’t think the event’s cancelation will financially impact him.

“It’s a cultural loss more than a financial loss for us,” said Quigg. “We’ll miss Heritage Days as community members.”

While downtown Bath businesses have mixed feelings about Heritage Days getting canceled, it isn’t the first canceled fair Jeanette Gilmore, owner of Smokey’s Greater Shows, which is responsible for the carnival rides at Bath Heritage Days and other summer festivals throughout Maine, has seen in recent weeks.

“As the days go by, more and more of my events are getting canceled,” said Gilmore. “We’re not doing well at all. This has been crippling.”

Gilmore said she didn’t know how much money she has lost so far, but said she puts on 18 fairs throughout the state from May through October, half of which have been canceled.

While she watches her business come to a halt, Gilmore said she’s thankful she hasn’t hired employees for the summer yet. Each April, she hires 70 to 100 employees from the U.S. and Mexico.

“Our industry is all about people gathering, which you can’t do right now,” said Gilmore. “The uncertainty is very difficult. I believe God has a plan and I wish He’d clue us in.”

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