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

Bath Heritage Days, a four-day festival in downtown Bath around the Fourth of July, is returning after getting canceled for the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Though the event is still in the early planning phase, Main Street Bath Director Amanda McDaniel said Bath Heritage Days is set to run from Friday, July 1 to Monday, July 4 and feature all the traditional festivities including live music, a carnival, craft show, antique car show, fireworks and Fourth of July parade.

McDaniel said festivities will begin after the work day on Friday, July 1 and continue all day through the weekend. The city will hold its traditional Fourth of July parade on Monday and fireworks will end the holiday.

“Residents and visitors look forward to celebrating the Fourth of July and Heritage Days in the city,” Bath City Manager Marc Meyers wrote in an email to The Times Record. “Canceling Heritage Days for two years due to the pandemic was a difficult change for our community and Main Street Bath. Activities such as the parade, fireworks and fireman’s muster have been an expected part of Fourth of July in Bath for decades. Hopefully, we can safely return to this event in July.”

Each day of the festival typically draws about 5,000 people into downtown Bath for a total attendee count of roughly 20,000 for the four-day celebration.

McDaniel said this year’s Heritage Days is expected to cost about $60,000 and is funded by community members, local businesses and the city.

McDaniel said the goal for this year’s Heritage Days is to honor the tradition of the event and make it familiar to those who have attended in years past “to help us feel on solid ground again.”

“I’m so looking forward to something that we can all recognize from the past and look forward to in the future,” said McDaniel. “It all feels like coming home, and Heritage Days is like a big hug from your family.”

“There are so many children who are just coming into the age where they’ll remember these kinds of things, and half of why we do this is so families can build these memories together,” McDaniel continued. “We love to see things happen downtown where you see parents and kids and grandparents smiling and having a good time and we know they’ll be able to talk about that until next year when it happens again.”

Though Bath Heritage Days was canceled for the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, McDaniel said the organizers feel the pandemic has “progressed” to a point where outdoor gatherings are understood to be safer than indoor gatherings.

“This year we feel like we’re at a point where outdoor activities have been proven to be safer and we’re hoping the variants continue to become milder and milder as they have been,” said McDaniel. “We’re hoping and praying that we can experience this celebration together in the way that we used to.”

Southgate Family Restaurant Owner Karl Schaumeurg said Bath Heritage Days would be the “shot of dopamine” both Bath residents and business owners need as long as everyone is able to stay safe.

“I think we can do it safely if everyone masks up, and I think the majority of people are vaccinated, depending on their age,” he said. “In the back of your mind you may be worried about a large group coming together, but I think it can happen safely.”

Schaumeurg said he usually sees a 25% jump in business at his Centre Street restaurant during Bath Heritage Days compared to an average summer weekend, so “not having it has been a real downer for businesses financially.”

Now You’re Cooking Marketing and Outreach Director Heather Fear said the Front Street store has missed Bath Heritage Days, not just because of the boost in business, but because of the energy it brings the city.

“Those kinds of events are when Bath really shines,” said Fear. “It’s like you’re transported to a different time. It’s a fun event and we’ve been missing it.”

While some restaurants and stores see a jump in business during Heritage Days, Fear said the cooking supply store is usually quiet on the Fourth of July, but sees a 10% increase leading up to the festival, which she suspects is from people preparing special meals for the holiday.

Though COVID-19 cases in Maine are increasing now, Fear said she’s “cautiously optimistic” that the pandemic will settle by the summer, so the virus is less likely to spread during the large outdoor gathering.

Guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated Dec. 10, 2021, states outdoor gatherings are generally safer than indoor gatherings and masks aren’t required when outdoors as long as people who don’t live together maintain six feet of space from others.

If an outdoor gathering is crowded, however, and physically distancing from others isn’t possible, masks are recommended, especially when an area has a high number of COVID-19 cases, according to the CDC.

As of Thursday, the CDC classified Sagadahoc County – and all Maine counties – as having high community transmission. Sagadahoc County saw 382 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 in the last week, according to the CDC, and the health officials advised everyone to wear a mask in public indoor settings due to the high transmission classification.

Since March 2020, 3,206 Sagadahoc residents have tested positive for COVID-19 and 23 have died as of Thursday, according to the Maine CDC.

Statewide, 158,087 Mainers have tested positive for COViD-19 since the start of the pandemic and 1,626 have died as of Thursday, the Maine CDC reported.

McDaniel said the event organizers are keeping an eye on the pandemic’s progression and should COVID-19 cases skyrocket and restrictions get enacted, they’re prepared to call the event off and refund sponsors.

More information on Bath Heritage Days will become available on Main Street Bath’s website and Facebook page as the event inches closer, McDaniel said.

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