The “Movies in the Park” event during a previous summer. Courtesy of Kathleen Funderburk and Whitney Reeves

One of Brunswick’s annual summer events, Movies in the Park, will return to Nathaniel Davis Park after relocating last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The return of the film series to the original venue comes when other Brunswick establishments are also beginning to return to normal as pandemic restrictions ease and virus cases fall.

Movies in the Park is organized by the Northwest Brunswick Neighborhood Association and the Brunswick Parks and Recreation department.

According to volunteer event organizers Kathleen Funderburk and Whitney Reeves, in past years before the COVID-19 pandemic the movie-showings have drawn crowds of anywhere from 400 to 700 people.

“The whole goal is to bring the community together, almost like a quintessential neighborhood gathering.” said Reeves.

Gov. Janet Mills’ most recent COVID-19 guideline update went into effect Monday, lifting all capacity limitations on both public outdoor and indoor settings.

Additionally, the indoor mask mandate in Maine also expired Monday, meaning fully vaccinated people are no longer required to wear a mask or stay six feet apart while indoors. Private businesses, however, can enact their own rules.

Last year, “Movies in the Park” took place at Brunswick’s Parks and Recreation Center, coined “Movies as you Park,” a drive-in style twist on the original event that drew about half the normal crowd.

“We basically just reinvented the entire thing,” Funderburk said.

According to the Executive Director of the Brunswick Downtown Association Debora King, it seems local businesses and organizations have a renewed sense of optimism for normalcy as summer approaches.

“Even though we’re going to really miss having Maine State Music Theatre in town this year I think we are still optimistic that our restaurants and our shops are going to have a great year, a great summer” King said, however noting that “we are not completely out of the woods yet.”

Maine State Music Theatre, which usually produces its mainstage shows at Bowdoin College’s Pickard Theater, will instead stage them in Westbrook due to scheduling restrictions.

TJ Siatras, owner of Joshua’s Restaurant and Tavern, said that overall he is optimistic for the summer and believes that the updated restrictions are a boost for both customers and staff.

Joshua’s voluntarily closed from Thanksgiving to April due to a handful of factors related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Siatras said.

The restaurant allows customers and staff who are fully vaccinated to enter without masks, however it still requires unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated patrons to mask up.

“People rely on us a lot for small group gatherings, anything from retirement parties to anniversaries,” Siatras said. “It is an honor system, and we hope that everyone will respect their peers in the community and do the right thing.”

According to Gelato Fiasco’s Mitch Newlin, the frozen dessert shop has been operating at a stricter level than state regulations for most of the pandemic.

Newlin said that after monitoring vaccine rates and discussing vaccination statuses with employees, the Brunswick gelato shop plans to open for indoor service without masks by July 6.

“I would say, Brunswick, we’re feeling pretty optimistic,” Newlin said. “It may be less than our normal summer, but definitely way better than last year.”

As of Tuesday, the Maine CDC has reported 17,022 cases of COVID-19 in Cumberland County with 194 deaths. Statewide, there have been 67,132 cases of COVID-19 and 824 deaths.

According to the Maine’s COVID-19 Vaccination Dashboard, 57.25% of the state’s population are fully vaccinated.

Movies in the Park, which is free of charge and open to the public, will be offering three movies this year: “The Greatest Showman” in June, “The Karate Kid (1984)” in July and, for kids, “Raya and the Last Dragon” in August.

While in the past, the movie line-up has typically been all new-releases, due to the shortage of new films this year due to the pandemic, some throwbacks have been selected instead. Showings will also feature on-site food trucks, pre-show activities for kids and music.

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