Gary Rairdon, left in red, leads off the 2019 Westbrook Strong 5K at Riverbank Park. Last year’s charity race was held virtually, but it returns to the city next month. File photo

Westbrook residents will begin to see a rebound to normalcy next month with the return of two traditional summertime events to Riverbank Park next month.

A scaled back version of Westbrook Together Days will be held July 1 and the Westbrook Strong 5K will take place July 17. The pandemic caused the cancellation of both events last summer, although the 5K fundraiser was held virtually.

“To have (Together Days) with bands and fireworks, coming back to some type of normalcy under precautionary steps, that’s very good,” said City Council President Gary Rairdon, the organizer of Westbrook Strong.

“I was eating outside at Fajita Grille on the boardwalk (recently), seeing people out there energized, kids on their scooters. It’s starting to be somewhat normal because people took their steps to be proactive, and (that) allows us to have these functions again,” Rairdon said. 

Westbrook Together Days music and games will be offered at the park starting at 5 p.m. and a fireworks display will begin around 9 p.m.

Westbrook Together Days usually draws 10,000 to 15,000 each summer for a parade, live performances, carnival rides, food vendors and other festival activities. Last year was the first year in 41 years that it wasn’t held.

The event needs to be planned in January, and this January was filled with uncertainty with the pandemic still raging. When things eased up, organizers didn’t have enough time to secure vendors or arrange for the parade, Chamber of Commerce President Sue Joyce said.

“Next year, we will come back even stronger and be able to bring back the parade and the amusement rides. We are getting there slowly but surely,” Joyce said.

The Westbrook Strong 5K has a cap of 500 runners this year, Rairdon said.

“We are a little short on that, we are at 70 participants total. We are behind the eight-ball with a month to go, so we need to get the word out,” he said.

The race typically brings in 400 to 500 runners.

He’s also seeking more race volunteers. So far, 20 have signed up, he said, but upwards of 60 are needed.

The organization is still looking for donations as well, though donations this year have been strong with $10,000 of the $15,000 goal already reached.

The race, in memory of Rairdon’s son Matthew, who was murdered at age 22 in 2012, raises money for scholarships at Saint Joseph’s College in Standish and for medical equipment that is donated locally. This year, Rairdon hopes to donate two or three medical mannequins to the medical program at Westbrook Regional Vocational Center.  Each mannequin costs over $1,000.

Matthew Rairdon, a nurse, attended Saint Joseph’s College and was big on volunteerism, his father said.

“There wasn’t a day that didn’t go by the past 14 months where I wouldn’t picture Matthew working doubles, going into vaccination clinics,” Rairdon said. “He was very much aware of the responsibility of vaccinations, health care, and he would have been there any shift he could.”

The race this year will have one start time as opposed to staggered starts as in the past. Matt’s Mile, a smaller race for children, will not be held because children haven’t been vaccinated yet.

“It is a step more towards the normal,” Rairdon said.

To run in person, participants must sign up by July 10. A virtual race is offered as well, similar to last year, which has a signup deadline of July 16. Any runner who wants a classic Westbrook Strong shirt needs to sign up by June 30.

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