(left-right) Bath City Manager’s executive assistant and human resources manager Erika Helgerson, Antonio Garreton, Bath City Council Chairman Aaron Park. Garreton was awarded Bath’s Citizen of the Year for his volunteer work in the community. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

After Antonio Garreton, known locally as “Tony Dancer,” was named Bath’s 2021 Citizen of the Year on Saturday, he said the honor “feels like my birth certificate” because he feels as though Bath adopted him.

“I really feel like this is my second home,” Garreton said.

Garreton was born and raised in Peru and moved to the United States when he was 17 years old. He lived in New York briefly, then attended college in Virginia. He later worked as an interior designer in the Washington D.C. area. He said he settled in Bath 17 years ago after visiting the state because “it reminds me so much of South America and the town I come from because you know your neighbors; people know and help each other.”

Garreton started Tony Dance Fiesta, a dance studio on Centre Street in Bath, where he offers dance and Zumba exercise classes.

While teaching, he said he learned one of his students was struggling with their mental health, and realized “America wasn’t what people from other countries think it is.” His student took their own life in 2015, and Garreton said he “saw people needed help, and that’s when I started doing fundraisers.”

Garreton said the causes he cares about include empowering women to “love and accept themselves as they are,” especially those who have experienced domestic abuse, and suicide prevention in the area’s youth population.


Erika Helgerson, Bath City Manager’s executive assistant and human resources manager, said Garreton was chosen as this year’s Citizen of the Year for “fostering joy and kindness in Bath.”

“Tony Garreton is a well-known face who brings heart and soul into all he does, whether it’s empowering residents through exercise and dance or volunteering at community events,” said Helgerson.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Garreton organized a grocery drive and cooked meals to bring to elderly Bath resident, said Helgerson.

Garreton was also instrumental in gathering school supplies for the Midcoast Youth Center’s Set For Success event, according to Midcoast Youth Center Founder and Executive Director Jamie Dorr. Garreton held dance classes and asked participants to bring school supplies to donate to the event in lieu of payment.

Set For Success is an annual event that offers free school supplies and haircuts to all Regional School Unit 1 students before the first day of school. About 525 RSU 1 students attended this year’s Set For Success event in late August.

“Tony is incredible,” said Dorr. “He went so far out of his way when we were doing distance learning to provide dance classes for kids to get everybody up and moving and is a joy to be around.”


Bath’s four community awards were announced during the city’s annual Citizen Involvement Day, a community-building event that brings awareness about local service organizations and honors community leaders. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

Other awards distributed 

The city also announced the recipients of the Youth Award, the Al Smith Community Spirit Award and the Community Project Award during the city’s 23rd annual Citizen Involvement Day on Saturday, a community-building event that brings awareness about local service organizations and honors community leaders. Leaders from thirty local organizations gathered in Bath’s Waterfront Park Saturday for local residents to explore and sign up to volunteer.

Jeppie Phillips received this year’s Youth Award for his work as a youth leader and teacher’s aide at the Midcoast Youth Center. This summer he worked in the youth center’s Compass Summer Camp — a program for middle school-aged children — helping students learn about music production, bike repair and skateboarding.

“His compassion, positivity, and humor make him a perfect example of a young man with resilience, who rises beyond challenges and shares love for his community,” said Helgerson.

“His energy is infectious and he loves to motivate people and is a joy to be around,” Dorr said of Phillips. “He’s willing to help out anywhere we need him and epitomizes what we want to recognize in youth.”

Bath’s public safety officers and first responders were awarded the Al Smith Community Spirit Award. Helgerson said city employees usually don’t receive any city awards because their job is to serve the community, “but this year we decided we needed to recognize Bath’s first responders and public safety employees because they’ve done so much in this last year and a half.”

“Bath first responders and public safety have handled an enormous amount of added pressure and stress while navigating the ever-changing public impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Helgerson. “As essential workers, they have continued to work tirelessly to keep the public safe. They have adapted to difficult protocols and, at times, heightened tension while interfacing with the public.”

Bath Youth Baseball received this year’s Community Project Award for being the first youth activity to restart following mass closures during the COVID-19 pandemic..

“President Nathan Craney, Secretary Leslie Gallant and the league’s board of directors went above and beyond to get the sport back in session by working with the City of Bath, State of Maine and National Cal Ripken Baseball Association to ensure a safe and fun environment,” said Helgerson.

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