Saturday’s Together Days parade will honor three longtime volunteers as co-grand marshals.
After deciding on a theme of volunteerism for this year’s Together Days parade, committee members for the annual festival put on by the Westbrook-Gorham Community Chamber realized they had a lot of worthy candidates to serve as grand marshal.
So instead of choosing just one to lead the parade on Saturday, June 4, the committee came up with a list of names and settled on three.
“It’s volunteer-themed, and there are a lot of people working behind the scenes in Westbrook, and people don’t have any idea,” said chamber member Suzanne Joyce last week.
She said the list of volunteers who deserve recognition is lengthy.
The three well-known community members – Ann Bitner, George Apt and Louie Lampron – were chosen as co-grand marshals for the parade based on their longtime involvement in community sports and other city programs. During its history, the parade has made it customary for the grand marshal to be a fixture in the community, with Eleanor Conant Saunders and Barbara Hawkes among notables on the list.
But, Joyce said, the committee wanted to honor those who operate “behind the scenes.”
On Tuesday, a group of festival organizers circled up in Riverbank Park to discuss last-minute details, hashing out everything from portable toilets to the fireworks display. Together Days kicks off Friday, June 3, at 5 p.m.
Apt, 67, is known for his decades of work in the Westbrook Little League Association, coaching teams and umpiring. He was also president of the league for 32 years.
“They wanted someone temporary, and it lasted 32 years,” he said, laughing.
Apt came straight from umpiring a league game to catch the Together Days walkthrough Tuesday in the park. When asked if he’s considered retiring from umpiring, he said, “No, it’s what keeps me young.”
Apt will leave directly after the parade Saturday to umpire a nearby doubleheader at 11 a.m.
“These are people who work with kids, and go out of their way to help,” Joyce said about the grand marshals.
Another Little League Association stalwart, Rick Knight, was also nominated as a fourth grand marshal, but was unable to join. Knight coached the Westbrook Little League team that went to the Little League World Series in 2005. Apt also made the trip with the team.
“The thing about Westbrook is they have a lot of great volunteers,” Apt said, adding that he is “humbled” by the recogniton. He still works as a machinist.
Westbrook Mayor Colleen Hilton said Tuesday that Westbrook is full of volunteers who deserve recognition.
“Westbrook is a community that can boast of numerous volunteers who put themselves out there to serve the people of Westbrook, and it is great to see them recognized for their contributions,” she said.
She said Apt (and Knight) have been leaders in the city’s Little League for “more years than I can count.”
“They have coached kids who now have kids playing,” she said.
Apt was also involved in Westbrook Tuffy football and is still active in the Westbrook Lions Club.
Bitner, who recently turned 92, has volunteered at the Westbrook Food Pantry for more than three decades, also helping to prepare food for the community center’s Meals on Wheels program.
“Ann is a quiet wonder on our Overseers of the Poor Committee and does truly generous assistance with our community needs by pulling in resources from a number of sources – faith communities and private benefactors,” Hilton said.
On Tuesday, Bitner came straight from the community center to the park. Tuesdays are a big day at the pantry, where there is a morning and evening session. She said there have routinely been 100 people coming through the evening pantry.
Bitner said she felt reluctant to take the spotlight, and agreed that there are many deserving volunteers in the city. She began volunteering with the pantry when it first opened, and has followed it to its many locations.
“I’m the oldest one they’ve got,” she said. “As long as I can keep going, I’m going.”
Lampron is best known for his organizing of the Westbrook Paper City Classic basketball tournament for 5th and 6th graders, which will host its 25th annual tournament in Westbrook next March. It began with eight teams as a fundraiser for a girls’ travel basketball team, and now boasts 42, both boys and girls.
“Its an honor,” he said about being named co-grand marshal.
Lampron, 69, has lived in Westbrook his whole life. He said the basketball tournament is his “pride and joy.” He also has no plans of stopping.
He has also spent time coaching and was involved in Tuffy football for two decades. He retired from Frito-Lay a few years ago and now works for the city, painting athletic fields and cooking at Saccarappa Elementary School.
Ed Symbol, the president of the Westbrook-Gorham Community Chamber, said when originally discussing this year’s parade, four or five names came up for grand marshal.
“The committee sort of ran with it,” he said, referring to having co-grand marshals. “We wanted to recognize people, some of whom have been volunteering for 20-plus years.”
The parade begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 4, on Lincoln Street, heading down Bridge Street and continuing up Main Street, where it ends at Riverbank Park. The three co-grand marshals will lead the parade from a convertible.
Lampron said he wanted to sit on the left-hand side of the car as it comes down Main Street.
“I’ll tell my family to stand on that side,” he said.
A Closer Look
The 2016 Westbrook Together Days schedule is as follows:
Friday, June 3
4:30-5:30 p.m. – Westbrook City Band
5:30-6 p.m. – Jukado Sword Demo
6-7:30 p.m. – The Waiters
8-10 p.m. – Time Pilots
Saturday, June 4
7 a.m. – Boy Scouts’ Pancake Breakfast
10 a.m. – Westbrook Together Days Parade
11 a.m.-noon – Westbrook Jazz Band
Noon – Auction
Noon-1:30 p.m. – Drouin Dance
1:30-2:30 p.m. – Mile 22 (formerly Endless Escapade)
2:30-3 p.m. – Multi-Cultural Show
3:30-4 p.m. – Brio Dance Studio
4-4:30 p.m. – Dance Maine
4:30-5 p.m. – Elite Cheering
5-6 p.m. – Al Hawkes
6-7:30 p.m. – Downeast Soul Coalition
8-10 p.m. – Tickle
Saturday’s live music will culminate in the annual fireworks display.
The co-grand marshals for this year’s Together Days parade chat in Riverbank Park on Tuesday. From left, Louie Lampron, Ann Bitner and George Apt are all longtime community volunteers.