Front Street in Bath buzzing with visitors at the antique car show during Bath Heritage Days. Jill Brady photo

BATH — Bath Heritage Days, a five-day festival around the Fourth of July that draws thousands into downtown Bath, has been canceled for the second consecutive year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Downtown revitalization group Main Street Bath, city officials and Bath police, “agreed that it would be difficult to enforce COVID-19 guidelines” during the festival, according to Main Street Bath Director Amanda McDaniel.

The festival typically includes a parade, carnival, concerts and fireworks, which attract anywhere from 20,000 to 30,000 people from across the country, McDaniel said.

“Unfortunately, Heritage Days requires more than six months of planning, and we must assume that some of the current COVID-19 guidelines (which include a 100-person limit on outdoor gatherings) will still be in effect in July,” Main Street Bath President Sally Johnstone wrote in a statement. “The core elements of Heritage Days … attract literally thousands of people to Bath and we just don’t see a path to offering the event in a safe and responsible manner.”

This would’ve been the 49th annual Bath Heritage Days.

The annual five-day Bath Heritage Days includes a parade, carnival, concerts and fireworks. Hannah LaClaire / The Times Record

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


Although the festival draws crowds to local businesses, downtown business owners said they’re not upset by the cancelation because they agree the celebration shouldn’t happen to mitigate the potential spread of COVID-19.

“It’s no secret that businesses downtown rely heavily on the business and foot traffic that Heritage Days brings into town every year, so there will be a significant impact, to say the least,” said Mollie Jellison, general manager of Bath Brewing Company on Front Street. “At this point, a decision had to be made with the information that is available, and I believe that the Main Street Board has made the responsible decision to cancel this year’s celebration in an effort to keep our community safe.”

Lisa-Marie Stewart, co-owner of Lisa-Marie’s Made in Maine on Front Street, said she noticed a roughly 65% drop in business when Heritage Days didn’t happen last summer.

“It was an extreme financial hit,” said Stewart. “Heritage Days is always amazing for us, but I don’t think it’ll be as bad this year because I think people are cooped up and more comfortable getting out safely.”

Regardless of what happens, Stewart said she believes calling off Heritage Days is “the right thing to do to keep everyone safe.”

Michelle Tibbetts, owner of Bohemian Rose on Front Street, said she didn’t notice a substantial loss of business when Heritage Days didn’t happen last summer, so she’s not worried about this summer.

“Heritage Days is a good boost for businesses and I can count on those being busy days for us, but July is always busy,” said Tibbetts. “It all evens out in the wash. I’m expecting this summer to be busier because people are used to wearing a mask out and we’ve dealt with this before.”

Although Heritage Days won’t happen, McDaniel encouraged the community to “stay connected, spend dollars locally, and support our small businesses and nonprofits.”

McDaniel said Main Street Bath will continue to reevaluate COVID-19 restrictions throughout the year to see if a smaller celebration can happen later in the year.

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