Searsmont begins bicentennial bash with Founder's Day Celebration
Searsmont — On Wednesday, Feb. 5, Searsmont residents will kick off the town's 200th year in existence with a Founder's Day Celebration, an event that will be the first of many scheduled throughout 2014 to celebrate the town's milestone birthday.
Carol Robbins, who is chairman of the Searsmont Bicentennial Committee, said the celebration has been in the planning stages for more than two years.
"We're getting more energized, and the closer it comes the more excited we are about the whole year," said Robbins Monday, Jan. 27.
Robbins, who was born in Searsmont, attended Searsmont schools and graduated from the former Crosby High School in Belfast, said the committee wanted to begin the town's birthday party on the 200th anniversary of the town's incorporation on Feb. 5, 1814.
While that put the Founder's Day Celebration on a Wednesday night, Robbins said the committee opted to begin the festivities at 6 p.m. to make the event more accessible to any resident who wishes to attend, especially working families, as some of the children in town will be participating in the shindig, too.
"They are doing essays on what it means to them to live in Searsmont," said Robbins.
Three of the Ames School students will read their essays aloud, while more of the writings will be posted on walls at the Searsmont Community Center, where the event will be held.
Robbins said the school children have also been learning about their town's history by reading entries from the diary of former Searsmont resident Josephine Knight, who kept a diary starting at age 17 detailing what life in Searsmont was like in the late 1800s. Searsmont resident Amy Robbins-Wilson transcribed the journal, and has since published the work on Amazon.
"The kids have been reading about her, and doing art projects," said Robbins. "They're looking at a map of Searsmont, as it was in the 1800s."
The house where Knight lived as a girl still stands in Searsmont, Robbins said, which gives the children another way to connect to their town's heritage.
The Founder's Day Celebration will also include a slide show featuring about 150 slides depicting the last 200 years in town, including an image of the town's centennial celebration in 1914 and more images obtained through the cooperation of the Penobscot Marine Museum. The museum holds thousands of glass plate negatives in the collection of Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Company, a postcard company that captured images throughout New England and New York during the early part of the 20th century.
"The Penobscot Marine Museum has been wonderful, they helped us get all the images of Searsmont they have," said Robbins.
Those images will also be included in the slide show, Robbins said, which later in the year will serve as the foundation for a documentary about the history of the town.
According to a news release announcing the event, the Founders Day Celebration program will start with a welcome from Robbins, followed by a reading of a bicentennial proclamation by Searsmont First Selectman Bruce Brierley.
Searsmont native and local business owner Jim Robbins will present a history of the town from its early settlement and its incorporation, through its development as a road hub and mill town in the 1800s.
Residents will also be treated to the presentation of Searsmont’s bicentennial birthday cake and other celebration foods and beverages, and bicentennial hats, mugs, historical calendars and t-shirts will be on sale as well.
And the party doesn't stop there, Robbins said.
Throughout this year, a large print of the centennial celebration will be on display at the community center, Robbins said. Searsmont resident and sculptor Stephen Porter crafted a bicentennial bench to compliment the image.
Bicentennial activities connected with the St. Georges River Canoe Race are planned for March 30, and more birthday celebrations are on tap for the Memorial Day and Searsmont Bicentennial Parade May 26. School and Searsmont Historical Society programs and exhibits are slated throughout the spring and summer.
All of these activities lead up to Searsmont’s Bicentennial Week, scheduled for Aug. 2-10. Highlights of the week include a fire department barbeque, Robbins Lumber Mill open house and tour, an antique car display and a Georges River Trail hike, all culminating on Aug. 9 with Bicentennial Celebration Day.
"And at the very end, we'll have a huge display of fireworks over Searsmont," said Robbins.
All the work on the part of the volunteers who put countless hours into planning the town's bicentennial, Robbins said, has been no surprise to her as a Searsmont native — that's just how the town gets things done. The community center was built in the same fashion, with townspeople giving their time and equipment to help make the building a reality. That building, Robbins said, houses a full library that continues to flourish thanks to a $100,000 endowment fund from the late Claudia Mercer. Mercer, a veteran town clerk who gave Searsmont more than 30 years of service, left the money to the library when she passed away in 2011.
"Searsmont has been a caring community for 200 years," said Robbins. "Look at all of the things that have happened in Searsmont over the years ... The whole community gets involved in these projects."
For more information about the bicentennial activities planned for the year, visit searsmont.com.
207-338-3333 ext. 109
Tanya has been a general news reporter in Waldo County since 1997.
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