UPDATE: Heller said that as of 8:45 a.m. Thursday, the When and If was on the Sheepscot River and expected to arrive in Wiscasset Harbor at 10 a.m.
Downtown was the choice for Bruce and Margaret Scally’s daily walk Wednesday, so the Wiscasset couple could check out Schoonerfest.
“I think it’s a great idea,” he said about the event that runs through Sunday. “I think the more festivals we can have, the better.”
“Very excited,” she said.
Wiscasset is a beautiful place for the event, New York City’s Patricia Ladyko said. She has been coming through Wiscasset for years on her Maine visits. Noting Wiscasset’s nickname as Maine’s prettiest village, she said, “I think they’re right.” Wednesday, the painted, wooden schooner silhouette sculptures along Main Street caught her eye. She wondered if they were for sale.
They are in a festival-long silent auction, one of Schoonerfest’s organizers, Peter Wells, said. Bid at 64 Main St., dubbed Fleet Headquarters for the festival of ships, history and fun.
History can be fun, Wiscasset Middle High School teacher Jean Phillips said. She made the 1800s-looking costumes seniors Leo Wren, Russell Webster and Evan Strong had on while they walked the village with pretend fines to issue like the real ones they said people in Wiscasset used to give and receive. “In protest, the townspeople nicknamed them the shilling laws, and they were enacted in 1822,” Wren said at the Sunken Garden, where Newcastle’s Nancy Parker was playing Irish jigs and other tunes on whistles.
What was it like to dress and act like it’s 1822? “It feels super cool, but it’s also super hot” due to the costumes’ layers, Wren said.
The teens explained, Wren’s and Strong’s vests were what Wiscasset’s wealthier residents might have worn, and Webster, in a light, billowy shirt he said was more for a sailor, was able to stay cooler in the sun day one of the inaugural Schoonerfest got. Wells said the day, which also kicked off festival-long geocaching, was a warm up to the rest of the festival.
“It is such a wonderful feeling to look around and see that it’s coming together, because we’d only visualized it (since) this is the first one,” another organizer, Terry Heller, said. “We couldn’t do anything but just rely on our imagination. And (fellow organizer) David (Pope) and I have pretty good imaginations.”
Several artists painted the schooner sculptures, Wells said. Margaret Scally called the works “so beautiful, and very creative.” Schoonerfest gave Lincoln Academy the plywood to make them, Wells said. They were Jorge Pena’s idea, Heller said.
As of 7 a.m. Thursday,, plans called for General George Patten’s family’s Wiscasset-built schooner When and If to arrive in Wiscasset Harbor about 9 a.m. Thursday and get a cannon salute Alan Boyes, Barters Island, Boothbay, will fire from a boat. The forecast is damper than Wednesday’s weather but that was putting no damper on enthusiasm. Heller was not worried, as so often showers that might come, do not, she said.
“Nobody says no to Terry,” Phillips said outside Fleet Headquarters about how she and the students got involved. Phillips said it is great practice for the students, less daunting than acting on stage before a seated audience, and is helping people see the drama program in action. “If I want more support from the community, I have to show the community what the kids are doing,” she said. And the students are learning history.
“I didn’t know the shilling laws existed,” Wren said. Unlike the 199-year-old fines, the ones they were handing out were voluntary to pay and were “all in good fun,” Strong explained. The fine cards read in part: “All ‘fines’ benefit the Class of 2022. Please make ‘payment’ at the Class of 2022 tent” near Fleet Headquarters. The seniors said their volunteer time, with more in the coming days, counts in their community service toward graduation.
Besides Phillips, another person who could not say no to Heller was Heller’s Austin, Texas friend Rhea Copening. Helping at Fleet Headquarters, she showed Wiscasset Newspaper a wall full of images of the When and If, and encouraged attendance at Schoonerfest and the headquarters. “There’s lots of information.”
Steve and Carolyn Fife hope to catch all the festival. They walked to it Wednesday from their Wiscasset home, and took in Parker’s whistle-playing in the Sunken Garden. “Love it,” she said of Parker’s playing. “What a nice spot to have it,” he said.
Find the festival schedule at wiscassetschoonerfest.com