Hosting a maximum of 50 guests with parties spaced 10 feet apart is nearly impossible for in-person community fundraisers. But not quite impossible, as Desert of Maine proved on July 18 with a sold-out even called Picnic, which raised $2,500 for Freeport Community Services.

“It’s sort of a natural amphitheater,” said Doug Heestand of the glacial silt dunes in Freeport that he bought with his wife, Mela, in December 2018. “I think this will be an annual event.”

For $30 a ticket, guests were treated to roots music by Magic 8 Ball, individually boxed fried chicken dinners from Gather and Wicked Whoopies for dessert. The event sold out a week in advance.

“We haven’t been to any live music since March, and this is the first time it felt safe,” said Steve Gruberman of Freeport.

James and Jennifer Pochurek of Freeport were on their first date night out since March. “The organizers were so thoughtful with spacing it out,” she said, pointing to the assigned numbered spots that set each reservation party 10 feet away from everyone else.

Event goers included live music fans thirsting for a safe outdoor concert as well as devoted supporters of Freeport Community Services, which runs a food pantry serving 70 families a week and administers the summer school breakfast and lunch program for RSU 5.

“They made 6,000 lunches in June alone,” said Bill Lawlor, an 80-year-old volunteer who delivers lunches for those who can’t pick them up. “One stop I made, I had four half-gallons of milk, and I felt like a milkman.”

“We really appreciate how people are supporting us so we can be there for the community, especially during the pandemic,” said Executive Director Pella Paladino. “The Desert of Maine reached out to us, and it was such a neat idea in this day of social distancing.”

“It feels more important than ever to give back right now,” said Heather Troidl of Freeport, picnicking with her husband, Adam. “And what an easy way.”

Though the Desert of Maine campground is closed this season, the iconic attraction is open for self-guided tours.

“We’ve got 45 acres of natural sand dunes,” said store manager Ava Farrar, who was a tour guide last summer. “It’s a natural wonder.”

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer from Scarborough. She can be reached at [email protected].


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