Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Holiday Light Parade prepares to dazzle Windham streets on Sunday

The annual Holiday Light Parade will be held on Sunday,
Nov. 28 in Windham starting at 4:30 p.m. The parade begins
at the Raymond Shopping Center and rolls down Route 302,
eventually ending at the East Windham Fire Station. Bring the
kids outside to wave to Santa and Mrs. Claus and see the 
dazzling array of lights. COURTESY PHOTO
By Ed Pierce

The magic is about to happen all over again. For the second consecutive year, the colorful nighttime celebration welcoming the Christmas season known as the Holiday Light Parade will roll through the streets of Windham.

The parade starts at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 28 and is hosted by Windham Fire and Rescue, Windham Police Department, Windham Parks and Recreation Department and the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce and organizers say it was so well received the first time around, it’s back to bring more smile sand more joy to those of all ages locally. 

“We received so much positive feedback from everyone last year over the Holiday Light Parade,” said Linda Brooks, Windham Parks and Recreation director. “They expressed a great deal of appreciation for helping them celebrate the holidays in such a fashion.”

The parade replaced the traditional tree lighting event which was formerly held at the Public Safety Building on Gray Road since its inception in 2016.

Brooks said that as the town faced a range of COVID-19 restrictions in 2020, the decision was made to try something new like the Holiday Light Parade, which proved to be popular with residents.  She said that the tree lighting ceremony had grown so much since it was first launched that it was reaching maximum capacity for an event of its kind and that this year, construction work underway at the Public Safety Building prevented it from being held there once more.

Planning for this year’s Holiday Light Parade began not long after last year’s event, Brooks said.

“It seems like we started receiving suggestions the day after last year’s parade,” Brooks said. “We did sit down to meet with the Fire Chief and a captain from the Windham Police Department about this year’s parade in October as we started the actual planning process for this year’s parade.”

The parade will feature brightly decorated fire department trucks and vehicles, along with Windham Police cars, a Windham Parks and Recreation vehicle and possibly a Windham Public Works vehicle, Brooks said.

“And depending upon the weather, Santa and Mrs. Claus, could be riding in the parade in a convertible driven by former State Representative Gary Plummer,” Brooks said. “The fire truck and emergency vehicles will have their sirens blaring and it will be hard to miss what’s going on.”

Each participating Windham vehicle in the Holiday Light Parade will be lit up with hundreds of brilliant electric Christmas bulbs and will include a wide variety of Christmas décor.  

The parade route has been refined from that of a year ago and a new map for the public that shows the specific route that the parade will take in 2021 has been posted on the Parks and Recreation website at https://www.windhamrecreation.com/

In addition, a special viewing location will be set up near Portland Pie on Route 302 manned by the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce. At that location, chamber volunteers will hand out free hot chocolate to parade viewers and participants meet Mrs. Windham from the Mrs., America Pageant.

“We hope that you and your family can plan to enjoy the lighted vehicles and wave hello to our favorite North Pole residents,” Brooks said. “People have told us how much they enjoyed last year’s parade and this year’s parade we hope will be even better.”

Brooks said those driving in the parade last year said they appreciated seeing all the happy faces lining the parade route and welcoming the parade vehicles to their neighborhoods. 

For more information about the 2021 Windham Holiday Light Parade, visit Windhamrecreation.com or call 207-892-1905. < 

Windham Chamber Singers return to live concerts with ‘An American Family Holiday’

The Windham Chamber Singers will perform 'An American
Family Holiday' with shows at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 4 at
Windham HigH School. Tickets are available online at
www.windhamchambersingers.com SUBMITTED PHOTO
   
By Elizabeth Richards

The Windham Chamber Singers are approaching An American Family Holiday (AmFam), their first live concert in two years, with both excitement and a bit of anxiety.

Director of Choral Activities Dr. Richard Nickerson said that preparing for a live concert feels somewhat surreal. “I haven’t really allowed myself to get excited,” he said.  “I’m expecting disappointment, because that’s really what we’ve had in the last two years.”

As it gets closer, he said, the group is beginning to feel more excited and confident that it will, indeed, happen.  “At the same time, we also realize that we’re one outbreak away from having to shut down,” he said.

Members of the Chamber Singers echoed Nickerson’s sentiments when speaking about the upcoming concert.

Vice President Alice Morrison said this year feels very different than previous live concerts.  “We can’t really allow ourselves to get very excited about it because it could go away at any moment,” she said.

Senior Will Searway, stage manager, has experienced two live AmFam concerts as well as a tour.  But this year, he said, he isn’t really feeling anything.  “It doesn’t feel like AmFam is coming,” he said. “But  I know once it’s here, I’ll love it more than ever. It’s just hard to be festive when there’s so much disappointment all the time,” he added.  Still, he said, he’s being optimistic.  “I love this group, and I love what I do, so it’s going to be great regardless.”

Amy Cropper, assistant conductor, said that they thought that by senior year everything would be back to how it used to be.  Still, she said “Regardless of how many limitations we have to put on what our performances are, I know that we will make the best of it,” she said.

The biggest difference this year, Nickerson said, is that both performers and audience members will need to be masked.  Although the programming choices he made may not be as adventurous as in the past, he added, creating the same family event and warm feelings is what is most important for him.  

Another challenge is the potential for last minute quarantine policy requirements that will change the dynamic of the group. “Someone could get a call after dress rehearsal that says they can’t participate,” Nickerson said.

“In an ensemble like ours it’s pretty devastating when we’re missing even one member because each voice really contributes to the sound,” said Secretary Maddie Hancock.  “It’s a little bit nerve wracking to know that someone could be called out on quarantine, and we’ll be performing with a whole new dynamic different from one we’ve ever rehearsed.”

Despite the challenges, the group is excited to be together again and perform for a live audience.  President Lucy Hatch said she is very excited for AmFam, but it’s also a little overwhelming.

Many group members have never done a live AmFam concert, and those who have were very young, Hatch said.  “Jumping into this leadership role is kind of a lot sometimes, but I couldn’t be more excited to make memories with this group.  I love the people, I love what we’re doing, and the connections we’re making that we haven’t been able to make for so long.”

Hancock was a freshman in the 2019-2020 school year.  While participating virtually last year was fun, she said, it wasn’t the same.  “We’re all super close as a group,” she said, “so not only am I excited to experience this I’m excited to experience it with everyone.”

Morrison said, “I know AmFam brings a lot of people joy, not just us. It’s very exciting to be back together and give that joy to people who have been missing it like we have been missing it.”

Cropper said that performance is as much about the audience as the performers. “Not having an audience to receive it while we were away was really difficult,” she said, and sometimes didn’t even really feel like performing. 

Being back with the “cast” of AmFam is also exciting, Hatch said.  There are those who return every year to be a part of the concert, becoming an important part of the memories the group has made together.  “It’s really comforting to know that we’ll be back with them on stage,” Hatch said.

This year the special guest is Chelsea Williams, a former member of the Chamber Singers and 2008 WHS graduate.  Daniel Strange will be the accompanist, and Kim Block will serve as the host.

Making memories is why AmFam was created in the first place, Nickerson said.  This year, as always, the show will include some surprises, including “an epic opening that we’re really excited about,” Nickerson said.

“We are so excited to be back,” Nickerson said.  “I know I speak for [the students] when I say that if we had the choice between doing another virtual concert and doing a live concert with the restrictions we have, we’ll take the live concert any day.”

An American Family Holiday will be performed with shows at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 4. The concert often sells out, so purchasing tickets in advance is advised.

Tickets can be purchased online at www.windhamchambersingers.com.  <

Friday, November 19, 2021

Ceremony recalls contributions of local veterans

VFW Post 10643 Commander Willie Goodman is flanked
by student essay contest winners during the annual Veterans
Day observance held at the Windham Veterans Center on
Nov. 11. At left is Jacob Williams, who won the VFW's
Patriot's Pen contest, and Jacob's brother, Sam Williams, who
won the VFW's Voice of Democracy contest. Both essay
contest winners attend Windham Christian School.
PHOTO BY ED PIERCE  
By Ed Pierce

Every year, America pauses on Nov. 11 to pay respect to those who have worn the military uniform of the United States and right here in Windham, this year’s local Veterans Day observance was hosted at the Windham Veterans Center by VFW Post 10643.

Commander Willie Goodman of the Windham VFW led observance which included the presentation of student essay contest winners and a speech by Dennis Brown, a longtime area veterans advocate.

With State Senator Bill Diamond, State Representatives Patrick Corey and Mark Bryant, and former State Representative and State Senator Gary Plummer in attendance at the observance, Brown related stories of how he became involved with Easterseals and the Veterans Count organizations that assist veterans.

“It’s meant a great deal to work with veterans and to make a difference in their lives,” Brown said. I grew up during the Vietnam era and the treatment of veterans returning from Vietnam bothered me.”

When an opportunity arose for Brown to join Easterseals when he moved to Maine, he said he eagerly volunteered to help because their efforts are directed at improving the lives of veterans in the state. 

“A lot of veterans just need an advocate,” Brown said. “It’s pretty daunting if you don’t know the road about how to get there.

According to Brown, the military’s motto of “never leaving anyone behind” is more important and relevant than ever and that’s why he continues to champion veterans’ causes and fundraisers such as this past summer’s Veterans Count rappelling event in Portland.

“We don’t leave our veterans behind,” Brown said.

Goodman also introduced this year’s 2021 VFW Patriot’s Pen essay winner and 2021 VFW Voice of Democracy essay winner and had them read their essays to the audience.

Goodman said that the Patriot's Pen essay competition is open to all middle school students, including home schoolers, in grades 6 to 8. Students were invited to write a 300- to 400-word essay on this year's theme, "What is Patriotism to Me?

Patriot’s Pen winner Jacob Williams, a seventh grader attending Windham Christian School, won $200 for his essay and will now advance to the district level essay competition.

“Last year I won second place for the town and this year I thought I would try to do it again. Because our class got the VFW assignment late, I was the only one in my class to enter in the contest,” he said. “I chose my topic because my great-grandfather served in the Vietnam War, and I wanted to write a little about him. I plan to put my prize money into savings for in the future if I want to buy a car or save for college.”

Jacob’s brother, Sam Williams, attends Windham Christian School, and won this year’s local Voice of Democracy essay contest.

“For a while now, I have viewed our country with concern. Divisions and apathy have infiltrated America, and we have left the security of our foundation in the Lord and the Bible,” he said. “The thought struck me that I could use flag burning as a symbol for the apathy that, in my opinion, is very dangerous to our country. I have won prizes from the VFW for an essay I wrote three years ago. The topic differed immensely from this year's focus. That year I emphasized the good that is present in our country, which from the topic ‘Why I Honor the American Flag.’ But this year, with the topic ‘America, where do we go from here,’ I decided to be honest about the state of our nation, that we are struggling but not beyond hope.”

Like his brother, Sam Williams will advance to the district level of the Voice of Democracy competition with his essay for high school students.

The observance then moved outside where former American Legion Field-Allen Post 148 Commander and World War II veteran Carroll MacDonald joined post color guard members in placing a commemorative wreath in the veteran’s garden. An honor guard fired a 21-gun salute which was followed by the playing of “Taps” by Roger Timmons of the VFW.

Afterward VFW and American Legion members and their families joined observance participants at a special Veterans Day luncheon at the Windham Veterans Center. <

Friday, November 12, 2021

Christmas craft fairs making dazzling return to local churches

With the holiday season rapidly approaching, local churches
in Windham and Raymond will be hosting Christmas craft
fairs in November and early December for shoppers
searching for unique and meaningful gifts.
COURTESY PHOTO
By Daniel Gray 

In the last leg of the year, there will always be things to look forward to; Maine winters, sitting by a cozy fire, and craft fair season. Besides the large craft fair held at the high school every year, there are tons of smaller ones scattered around town. Churches are by far the biggest places to find craft fairs.

A few churches that have scheduled holiday craft fairs during November and December are the Windham Friends Meeting Church, St. Ann’s Episcopal Church, The First Congregational Church of Gray, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and the North Windham Union Church. Raymond Village Library isn't a church, but they are hosting a craft fair as well.

St. Ann’s Annual Christmas Fair will be from 8:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Dec. 4. Christmas wreaths will be available along with 42 gift baskets. A Christmas tree also will be raffled off. For more information, send an email to st.annschristmasfair21@gmail.com  

The Windham Friends Meeting's craft fair will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 13 at the Friends Meeting House at 374 Gray Road here in Windham, which is right beside the Windham Raymond School District office.

"We are supported by many people in the community who are not members of Windham Friends but are a great help to us throughout the year," said Julianne Moore, treasurer for the Friends Church for more than 20 years.

Their craft fair will have jewelry, ornaments, stockings, knitted goods, lit Christmas trees, baked goods, and more.

"My favorite thing about the fair is working together with our group and The Windham Historical Society," Moore said. "But my favorite thing about the Christmas season is the music and decorating our meetinghouse. We have some antique paper murals of the Nativity that are quite unique and very delicate, but we still manage to get them up every year."

The First Congregational Church of Gray's annual Holly Fair is set for 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 20 with face masks required. It's held at the Parish House in Gray, right behind the McDonalds.

Franny Hutchings, a committee member of the church and a churchgoer herself, is very excited for the upcoming Holly Fair.

"With COVID, we were unsure if we would have the Holly Fair this year," Hutchings said. "We're all happy to do it this year and to bring it back. My favorite thing about the Holly Fair is that it puts us in the spirit of Christmas, and we enjoy seeing so many friends coming to shop."

There will be raffle tickets for $50 gift cards when you purchase goods from participating vendors, as well as jewelry, cookies, Rada cutlery, crafts, White Elephant and children activity rooms.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help's Christmas Fair will be from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4, located at the church on Roosevelt Trail in North Windham. There will be a visit from Santa from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., a bake sale, knitted items, gift baskets, jewelry, books, and delicious breakfast and lunch served by the Snowflake Café.

At that event, The Knights of Columbus will also have a Yard Sale along with their Annual Christmas Tree sale. The sale for the Christmas trees begins at the church Nov. 27.

The North Windham Union Church will conduct a Christmas craft fair from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4 hosted at the church located off Roosevelt Trail. There will be 12 tables of hand-made crafts from locals along with baked goods, gently used books, Christmas wreaths, and light lunches to-go. Santa may also make an appearance for the kids, but the church is unsure with his busy schedule.

The church is also holding a silent auction through Nov. 16 with items ranging from gift certificates to toys. Visit their Facebook page to find additional information and to view all the items they have up for auction.

Raymond Village Library's holiday craft fair will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 13. There will be plenty of items, including knitted and crocheted items, pottery, resin, jewelry, soaps, and gift baskets.

There will also be special items such as photographic works from Jesse MacDonald Photography, honey and herbal products from Bee Blossom Botanicals, alpaca fiber products from Pismire Mountain Fiber Farm, and glass art from Infinitely Fearless Designs.

The Raymond Village Library is happy to support local artists for Raymond residents said Allison Griffin, the director at RVL. She said that she enjoys seeing all the local talent from the community.

"There are so many talented people in the Raymond area, and we are happy to be able to provide a small venue to help promote their work." Griffin said. " While the event raises funds for the library, the primary focus of the fair is to provide a venue where all local crafters and artists are welcome to participate." <

Friday, November 5, 2021

RSU 14’s Christopher Howell named Maine’s 2022 Superintendent of the Year

RSU 14's Christopher Howell was awarded
the 2022 Superintendent of the Year honor
on Wednesday, Oct. 27 by Jim Boothby,
the president of the Maine School
Superintendent Association.
PHOTO BY AARON HOWELL
By Lorraine Glowczak

Upon learning the news that Raymond and Windham School district’s Superintendent, Christopher Howell, was named Superintendent of the Year for 2022, local community members posted on social media praising him with accolades such as: “An honored bestowed to one of the best.”, “Truly deserved.”, “Congratulations to the BEST.”, “You certainly have earned this honor.”, “We have a super Super.,” and “RSU 14 is so fortunate.”

, Oct. 27Howell’s award was officially announced on Wednesday, Oct. 27 by Jim Boothby, President of the Maine School Superintendent Association. Upon hearing the news, Howell shared his deep appreciation and response.

“I feel humbled by this special recognition,” he said. “There are so many superintendents in the state who have worked just as hard as I have throughout the pandemic. They also have spent an extraordinary amount of time and commitment to get their school districts through the challenges of COVID. They deserve this award just as much as I do.”

Assistant Superintendent Christine Frost-Bertinet, who works closely with Howell, said that he is at the forefront of all district initiatives, has a deep understanding of school finance, policies, curriculum, strategic planning, facilities, general operations, negotiations, and supervision and evaluation guides – all the while getting the school district through a very trying time.

“Without question, Superintendent Howell leads our district with the highest level of integrity, educational vision, and organizational understanding,” Frost-Bertinet said. “He exudes kindness and a calm, centered approach daily, characteristics that have served to create a remarkably healthy climate and culture across all schools and programs. Superintendent Howell has also fostered positive relationships with town officials and outside organizations, as he sees his work as a school leader to be far-reaching and one that can support the growth of healthier communities where all can thrive.”

Frost-Bertinet also said that Howell, who has worked in education for the last 28 years with the past 25 of those years for the Windham and Raymond school district has been able to work collaboratively with colleagues and local officials to advance critically important work that will have positive and lasting impacts for thousands of learners. His leadership approach is highly inclusive, thought-provoking, and deeply reflective.

His reflective and inclusive approach to youth was recognized by a former mentor, Dave Halligan, a well-known soccer coach in the Falmouth School district. Halligan is the one who encouraged him to go into education as a career.

“I was influenced by Dave while I was in college and was the assistant soccer coach with him,” Howell said. “He told me that education was something I should go into because he thought I’d be good at it. He is the one who pushed me in this direction.”

Halligan is not surprised by Howell’s recognition.

“This award is well deserved,” Halligan said. “Chris is an outstanding individual who is a people person. He can relate to everyone – whether they are a student, a peer, or a parent. He is able to communicate with everyone with ease and really listen to them. These are the reasons why I encouraged him to go into education.”

In terms of Howell’s educational philosophy, he said he believes in developing strong relationships with kids to help them with their future successes.

“When you really get to know them, you can figure out their strengths and weaknesses. From there, you can figure out how you can help them decide what path they will follow after graduation. We need to prepare kids so they can make an authentic choice for their next step when leaving school. It doesn’t matter to me if it is college or a job after school. What matters most is that they are prepared and confident to go in the direction that works best for them. As a result, we as educators must be as creative as we possibly can to meet students’ needs and the multiple pathways that are available for an individual to take.”

Howell’s educational biography is impressive and includes being honored by the New England Secondary School Consortium as a Champion for public education in Maine. He has served the educational community through a variety of positions and support roles that include being a board member and President of the Maine Curriculum Leaders Association as well as an advisory board member for New England Secondary School Consortium and a member of multiple ad hoc committees for the Maine Department of Education.

Howell currently serves on the board for Jobs for Maine’s Graduates and is on the advisory board for the School of Education and Human Development Advisory Committee. He also serves as the President of the Greater Sebago Education Alliance and the Cumberland County School Superintendents Association.

Frost-Bertinet captures the community sentiments when she said that Howell understands the importance of fostering healthy relationships with learners, staff, parents, community members, and outside agencies.

“His outreach to the community has served to support a positive response as the district worked through many of the pandemic-related constraints,” she said. “His presence, whether it be in person or virtually, ignites a shared commitment to doing what is right by the children in our communities.” <

Voter turnout exceeds expectations statewide

Windham Town Clerk Linda S. Morrell, left, and Deputy Clerk
Judy Vance preside over the municipal election conducted
Tuesday at Windham High School. Morrell said about 36
percent of registered voters turned out to vote in the election
which exceed her expectations for a non-presidential
election year. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE
By Ed Pierce

As the votes were counted late into the evening on Tuesday, candidates, their families, and supporters were anxious to learn the results of municipal and school board races on Election Day.

Windham Town Clerk Linda S. Morrell said that of Tuesday, there were 14,398 registered voters in Windham. Morrell said between those who voted absentee and those who went to the polls to cast ballots, a total of 5,184 people voted in this election, amounting to a turnout of 36 percent, more than what was expected in a non-presidential election year.

Municipal candidates in the election running unopposed included incumbent David J. Nadeau, the current chair of the Windham Town Council, who received 3,964 votes to secure a three-year term for an At-Large seat on the Windham Town Council, and Town Clerk Linda S. Morrell who received 4,054 votes in her unopposed bid for re-election for a two-year term.

Another Town Council incumbent, Edward M. Ohmott, was unopposed for a one-year term for an At-Large seat on the council. He picked up 3,678 votes to win election in his own right after having by appointed by councilors in May to fill the seat of former Town Councilor David Douglass.

No declared candidate filed paperwork for the Windham Town Council’s West District by the established deadline in September, but write-in candidate William Reiner received 169 write-in votes to win a three-year term on the Town Council representing the West District of Windham. Incumbent Timothy Nangle chose not to run for re-election but did receive 33 write-in votes for that position in Tuesday’s election.

Incumbent Jennie Butler, who taught math at the high school level for 31 years and part-time at the University of Southern Maine, was re-elected for a three-year term on the RSU 14 Board of Directors. Butler was first elected to the school board in 2019.

Newcomer Jessica M.H. Bridges, a resident of Windham for 11 years who has two children attending school in town, received 1,535 votes to win a three-year term on the school board.

Other declared candidates receiving votes in the RSU 14 Board of Directors race were Michael Pasquini (1,199 votes), and Barbara Bagshaw (1,065 votes). Two candidates who had withdrawn from the race earlier, including incumbent Chistina Small and newcomer Carrie Grant, remained on the ballot and received votes on Election Day, with Small picking up 896 votes and Grant tallying 596 votes.

Also on the ballot Tuesday were three statewide referendum questions.

Question 1 asked voters if they wanted to ban the construction of high-impact electric transmission lines in the Upper Kennebec Region and to require the Maine Legislature to approve all other such projects anywhere in Maine, both retroactively to 2020, and to require the legislature, retroactively to 2014, to approve by a two-thirds vote such projects using public land. Windham voters voting Yes were 3,051 and 2,087 voting No. In Raymond, 1,033 votes were recorded for Yes 674 voted No.

Overall statewide, Question 1 had 238,882 voters voting Yes to 164,387 votes of No.

Question 2 asked voters for approval to issue $100 million in general obligation bonds for transportation infrastructure projects, including $85 million for the construction, reconstruction, and rehabilitation of highways and bridges and $15 million for facilities or equipment related to transit, freight and passenger railroads, aviation, ports and harbors, marine transportation, and active transportation projects. In Windham, 3,395 votes were cast for Yes, and 1,725 voting No. In Raymond, 1,150 voted Yes and 552 voted No.

Statewide voters approved Question 2 with 290,142 voting Yes, and 113,007 voting No.

Question 3 asked voters for approval to create a state constitutional amendment to declare that individuals have a "natural, inherent and unalienable right to food," including "the right to save and exchange seeds" and "the right to grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume the food of their own choosing for their own nourishment, sustenance, bodily health and well-being." In Windham, 2,952 votes were cast for Yes, while 2,133 voted No. In Raymond, 985 voted Yes and 714 voted No.

Voters across the state approved Question 3 with 243,458 voting Yes and 156,796 voting No. <

Friday, October 29, 2021

Windham’s annual Trunk or Treat displays creativity, community spirit

The Cumberland County Sheriff's Department's
Disney themed entry was the first-place winner 
for Community Organization trunk during the
annual Trunk or Treat event on Oct. 23 at the 
Windham Mall. Joe Schnupp, Community
Policing Officer, created the trunk for the
sheriff's department. PHOTO BY
COLLETTE HAYES    
By Collette Hayes

More than 220 children, dressed in their hauntingly delightful Halloween costumes, visited Windham’s annual Drive-Thru Trunk or Treat event on Saturday, Oct. 23 and didn’t leave empty handed from the creepy annual event.

As families slowly drove by spooky car trunks loaded with candy, excited children held out bags or plastic pumpkins from car windows to receive pre-packaged treats from trunk hosts.

Trunk or Treat was originally created in 2017 by Windham’s Park and Recreation Department. This year, the Halloween event was cohosted by Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce and the owner of the Windham Mall, Jay Wise, who generously provided the use of the mall property where the event was held.

According to Linda Brooks, Windham Parks and Recreation director, six years ago the Department of Parks and Recreation created the Halloween event which has exploded in size and now requires a much larger facility to accommodate more people. The Trunk or Treat aspect of the event was added to efficiently distribute candy to the large numbers attending.

“We were beyond our capacity to serve all of the people,” Brooks said. “We planned to move the event to Windham High School but due to COVID, we offered this as a drive-by event last year. Since the event is held outside, the strict guidelines have lessened. This year we had 26 trunks registered and decorated by businesses, community organizations and families.”

Pre-registration of those attending allows for organization, safety and management of the large number of participants that attend, Brooks said.

“Participants were required to register for a scheduled time slot in order to participate,” Brooks said. “Pre-registration helps so we can run the event in two hours and also to keep a handle on the flow of traffic. We couldn’t do this without the businesses and organizations that help. The Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, the Windham Town Departments and the Windham Mall have been fantastic partners in this. It is well beyond our five-person town department to do this alone.”

Windham Department of Parks and Recreation Youth and Family Coordinator Sarah Davenport said in lieu of an admission fee, donations were collected for the Windham Food Pantry.

All together a total of 1,031 items in non-perishables and cash were collected and donated to the Windham Food Pantry through the Trunk or Treat event.

According to Robin Mullins, Executive Director of the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, this is the second year they have co-hosted the event with the Windham Parks and Recreation Department and the Windham Mall.

Mullins said she was excited about having 220 children participate in the Trunk or Treat event this year and remarked on how the event brought community organizations closer together.

“It’s great to see the businesses, the nonprofits and the community all working together,” Mullins said. “Yesterday I was in the Chamber office and we had the Windham Police Department, the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber and the Sebago Lakes Rotary all together in my conference room putting bags of candy together for the Trunk or Treat event.”

Joe Schnupp, the Community Policing Officer at Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department, said he was appreciative to the Windham Parks and Recreation Department for hosting the event. He created an impressive Disney themed trunk for the sheriff’s department.

“This is the fourth year that the sheriff’s department has participated,” Shnup said. “This event is all about the kids and I’m happy to have the opportunity to be a part of it. The hosts have done a great job scheduling times so that traffic isn’t an issue.”

Kelsey Crowe, Windham’s Parks and Recreation Department deputy director, said she was impressed with the support of the volunteers that contributed to the success of the event this year.

“We had the Police Department, the Fire Department and the Cumberland Sheriff’s Department all here tonight to support the event,” Crowe said. “Also, the Lions Club judges two different contests for us, The Trunk Contest, where prizes are given to the businesses, the community organizations and Family Trunk Hosts and the Kids Costume Contest.”

First place winners in the Trunk Contest were: The Hart Family’s M&M Trunk, Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department’s Disney Themed Trunk; and Willie’s Towing Haunted Tow Truck Trunk. Davenport expressed appreciation to the businesses who generously donated prizes for the trunk hosts: Portland Pie Co. and Smitty’s Cinema.

Submissions for the Parks and Recreation annual costume contest sponsored by Dairy Queen, will be received through Nov. 3. Kids ages 18 and under are invited to participate in the costume contest.

Details for submitting a costume photo can be found on the Parks and Recreation website Parks&Recreation@windhammaine.us <

Raymond’s Jordan-Small Middle School celebrates ‘Tom Gumble Day’

Jordan-Small Middle School seventh-graders Bryce Jarvais,
left, and Zach Gagne thank Groundskeeper Tom Gumble 
after JSMS staff, coaches and the boys' and girls' soccer
and cross country teams honored him on Oct. 25 at the
school for his hard work on the first-ever 'Tom Gumble
Day.'  PHOTO BY MATT PASCARELLA  
  
By Matt Pascarella

Staff and coaches at Jordan Small Middle School (JSMS) along with students from the boys and girls’ soccer team and cross-country team noticed that Tom Gumble, their groundskeeper for 13 years, wasn’t getting proper recognition and threw him a surprise honoring at JSMS where he was presented with gifts and a plaque stating Oct. 25 was officially “Tom Gumble Day.”
Gumble is not someone you may recognize but has done a lot for the schools in RSU 14, with his main focus being at JSMS and Raymond Elementary School. He’s painted the Windham eagle head on the high school football field and recently painted the Raymond Roadrunner on Jordan-Small’s soccer field.

“The reason you play on such great fields is Mr. Gumble,” said JSMS Athletic Director Jack Fitch. “I feel real fortunate that we have Mr. Gumble here taking care of our facility. You’re awesome.”

Seventh-grader Phinlee Acosta-Afthim said she likes how much effort Gumble puts into making everything so nice. Without him, their school wouldn’t be what it is today. She thanked him for all his hard work and everything he’s done to create a safe and happy environment to play in.

Gumble is originally from Romford, England. He has always loved the outdoors and worked as a fencer and landscaper.

While he and his wife were visiting family in Maine, they were invited to his wife’s nephew’s football practice. Gumble stood on the high school stadium field in 2006 and had a surreal moment. “I don’t know what it was, I was looking around the stadium and was like “I’m going to work here someday,” he said.

When Gumble and his wife moved to Windham, he struggled to find work. He saw an ad for public works and was later contacted by the district facilities department looking for summer help.

Gumble said the rest is history as that summer position became a fulltime one and once Windham and Raymond schools consolidated, he was given the option to be based in Raymond. Though he was hesitant at first, looking back, he said it was the best thing he ever did.

He said it could be easy to say no to a particular task in his job, but Gumble realized he could make a real difference at JSMS.

Anything and everything connected to the grounds from field maintenance to helping an employee clean off their car in the snow, there isn’t much Gumble won’t say ‘yes’ to.

Everyone is appreciative of the time Gumble puts in.

“For soccer games, being able to play on good turf, he’s done a really good job with it. He’s super kind and hard working,” said seventh-grader Zach Gagne. “He’s an amazing guy and is very appreciated for what he does for the schools and it’s such an honor to have him here.”

Cross-country coach John Keller appreciated the work Gumble did for their quarter-mile trail. Gumble made the trail safe to run on.

“It was very root covered and he covered the roots with gravel and crushed stone, that was immense,” said Keller. “Tom works so hard and hasn’t been recognized for it and deserves it. He does the work of three people.”

Eighth-grader Katie Plummer likes that Gumble is a hard worker and nice person.

Gumble sincerely loves the grounds. He said you couldn’t beat the views on the soccer field with the White Mountains in the distance.

He was blown away at the presentation of “Tom Gumble Day.” He said he would forever be indebted to the schools and their employees for doing this.

“I know the coaches, the teachers, we’ve kind of become one big family,” he said.

Gumble said being an immigrant, he tried harder. He realized some of it was circumstance and luck but wanted to tell the kids they are very fortunate to live in a country where if you work hard, you can be anything you want.

He said that he feels a real sense of community and would like to thank RSU 14 for giving him the opportunity to work there, coaches Jim Beers and John Keller, JSMS Principal Randy Crockett, physical education teacher Joni Merrill and all the students, parents and employees of Raymond school system, saying that they’ve all played a part in his success. <

Friday, October 22, 2021

Maine Country Music Hall of Fame inducts local musician Bucky Mitchell

Bucky Mitchell, who is now a booking agent for local venues
such as Lenny's in Westbrook, was inducted into the Maine
Country Music Hall of Fame in April.
PHOTO BY LORRAINE GLOWCZAK  
By Lorraine Glowczak

Many know and recognize his face at Lenny’s, 1274 Bridgton Road in Westbrook, as he greets and talks with music lovers who arrive early to enjoy their favorite bands. His name is Bucky Mitchell, and he is the gastropub’s booking agent extraordinaire.

But his talent to book best-loved Maine musicians does not stop there – he is also recognized for his highly skilled aptitude as a musician – playing drums in bands that have opened for well-known country artists such as Randy Travis, Emmylou Harris, Porter Waggoner, Freddy Fender, Roy Clark and more, including Maine’s own Dick Curless.

His talent was recognized recently when he was inducted into the Maine Country Music Hall of Fame in August. This isn’t his first rodeo of acknowledgment, however. He was also inducted in the Massachusetts Country Music Hall of fame in 2014.

Mitchell’s story begins at an early age. He was born in Portland in 1951 and has been playing country music since he was 19 where he played drums for a house band, Rick Wells & the Wagon Wheels, at the Wagon Wheel Ranch in Steep Falls in the 1970s. It was this small-town bar experience that catapulted him into the realm of well-known musicians.

“It turns out that the house band also backed up Capitol Records star Dick Curless” Mitchell said. “Dick invited me to go with him to Nashville for a Grand Ole Opry appearance and it was from that experience that I knew music would be my life-time career.”

It wasn’t long after that, in 1972 while playing at the Wagon Wheel Ranch, Mitchell was asked to become part of a touring band. He joined and toured the eastern United States for four years while also booking other bands along the eastern seaboard.

Mitchell helped found and played drums for the band, Rick Robinson and the Bayou Boys. The group recorded two albums and 10 singles for Belmont Records, and was named MCMAA Country Music Band of the Year in 1979 and 1980. It was from the Bayou Boys’ experience that Mitchell got to meet the most famous of Country Music.

 “We opened shows for many big-time country acts including Roy Clark, Hank Snow, Eddie Rabbitt, Porter Waggoner, Johnny Paycheck, Emmylou Harris, and Larry Gatlin,” Mitchell said.

Along the way, Mitchell also got to play drums for many big stars, such as The Hager Twins (from the Hee-Haw fame), Dave Dudley, John Anderson, Big Al Downing, Freddie Fender, Barbara Fairchild, and Kenny Price.

Mitchell shares a story when the band ran into a big-name star of that time, Ernest Tubb.

We were at a hotel playing, and Ernest Tubb was staying at the same hotel,” Mitchell said. “He was on a show with Hank Snow down at the local auditorium. Rick Robinson saw Ernest Tubb strolling around the lobby and went to him and asked if something was wrong. Ernest Tubb had missed his bus to the auditorium, as he told the driver to leave at a certain time no matter who was not there. Rick gave Ernest a ride to the auditorium and Ernest had to put five bucks in the band fund jar for being late for his own show. Ernest Tubb always remembered that ride every time we saw him in Nashville after that.”

Although Mitchell’s life on the road was filled with many adventures and he loved every bit of it, he admits the downsides.

“I would miss my son’s baseball games and a lot of family events. Luckily I had a great supportive family but it wasn’t always easy being away from family all the time.”

For those who wish to go into the music business as a professional, Mitchell offers the following advice:

“You have to put a lot of time practicing on your instrument – about five to seven hours a day. If you don’t have the time or passion to do that – then music will be a hobby for you. And – that’s okay! But if you choose music as a career, it will take a lot of commitment on your part.”

Mitchell is now retired and provides promotions for entertainment venues in the area as a booking agent and entertainment consultant, with Lenny’s being among them. <

Neighbors Helping Neighbors organization preparing for another heating assistance season

Watch for information about Windham Neighbors Helping 
Neighbors online auction which will help provide funds
for heating assistance for local families. If you would like
to donate, go to windhamnighbors.com
COURTESY PHOTO
 By Ed Pierce

If you ask Bill Diamond what’s been one of the most rewarding feelings that he’s ever experienced, he’ll tell you it’s his association with the Windham Neighbors Helping Neighbors program.

Diamond, a state senator representing Windham and former Maine Secretary of State, helped co-found Neighbors Helping Neighbors, which helps area residents in need stay warm during some of the coldest months of the year. He served as the organization’s president for 13 years before deciding to let new leaders steer the group.

But Neighbors Helping Neighbors is a source of pride for Diamond and remains a relevant and viable resource in the community as Windham and Raymond approach another winter heating season.

“The community has become totally supportive, much more so than I ever expected which is evidenced by the routine unsolicited donations we receive throughout the year,” Diamond said.

The program provides one-time emergency heating fuel assistance to Windham residents and helps to direct individuals in need to find appropriate resources and to promote a culture of neighbors helping neighbors in the community.

“The community believes in our cause, and we have become the default local charity when groups or individuals want to donate to a good local cause,” Diamond said. “Hopefully the organization will continue to grow and nurture the solid reputation that has been achieved. I have no doubt that will be the case.”

Windham’s Neighbors Helping Neighbors organization was founded in October 2007 by Diamond, Representative Mark Bryant, and former Representative Gary Plummer. It is a 501c3 non-profit and is made up of Windham volunteers who have come together to provide one-time emergency assistance to those Windham residents who require immediate heating fuel.

Patrick Corey is currently serving as the president of Neighbors Helping Neighbors.

The organization itself has no overhead costs whatsoever and all funding goes directly to helping those in desperate need. Every penny that is donated goes for heating fuel and 100 percent of fundraising efforts are used for the purchase of fuel for those who are in dire need.

Diamond says the organization focuses its resources on those who may have fallen through the cracks and either don’t qualify or are in a bureaucratic process waiting for heating assistance from other agencies.

“The most striking and unforgettable case that we helped involved a single mom with two kids and she had serious physical challenges,” Diamond said. “We heard about her needs, so we visited her home in January and discovered she was totally out of heating fuel and in an effort to keep her family warm, she had placed blankets on the doorways surrounding the kitchen, had a small electric heater and they all slept and lived in that space.”

He said that the family slept closely together at night using their body heat to keep them warm.

“This was happening in our own town, not some poverty-stricken country, and it was heartbreaking to see and realize that the struggle to obtain the basics of survival exist here in Windham and no doubt in other towns as well,” Diamond said. “I’ll never forget the expression on her face when we told her we would provide heating fuel for her family, which we did that day. That experience was my motivating force to make Neighbors a highly respected organization that would exist indefinitely for those in our town that need help.”

The heating assistance can be a lifeline for those struggling to stay warm in winter.

“In many cases, Windham Neighbors Helping Neighbors help people heat their homes safely without needing to choose between basic needs like heat, rent, medications and food,” Diamond said.

Recipients receive 100 gallons of fuel, and their need can be attributed to many different circumstances. Some are elderly and living on fixed incomes, others may have lost a job or be out of work and trying to reestablish their lives, while some may just have a temporary emergency situation that requires an immediate solution.

The program is confidential and harkens back to a time when neighbors banded together to pitch in and help their neighbors when it was needed the most.

The Neighbors Helping Neighbors organization lines up deliveries to recipients. It provides heating oil, but assistance also can be rendered for those with KI and propane systems or through Bio-Bricks for homes using wood-burning heat.

During the first year of operations for Windham Neighbors Helping Neighbors, a total of 17 families were helped. By 2014, that number grew to 101 families, and that total has since stabilized at about 75 families locally each winter.

The organization continues to serve the community because of countless donations of labor, hours, ideas and funding through contributions of money and goods from concerned individuals and businesses, Diamond said.

For more details about Neighbors Helping Neighbors, visit 
https://windhamneighbors.com/site/donate-now/volunteer or call 207-1336. To make a financial donation to the Neighbors Helping Neighbors program, go to https://windhamneighbors.com/site/donate-now/. To apply for assistance, go to https://windhamhelpingneighbors.com
<

Friday, October 15, 2021

Surprise parade, celebration honor Windham veteran on his 90th birthday

U.S. Marine Corps veteran Walter Braley, Jr. turned 90 on
Sunday, Oct. 10 and was treated to a surprise parade outside
his home in Windham and several presentations for his 
birthday. Joining Braley following a VFW presentation are
VFW Commander Willie Goodman, right, and Jeff Cook,
VFW Post 10643 Adjutant. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE   
By Ed Pierce

The late American tennis star Arthur Ashe once described true heroism as the urge to serve others at whatever the cost. U.S. Marine Corps veteran Walter Braley, Jr. of Windham can be considered as one such individual.

On his 90th birthday on Sunday, Oct. 10, Braley’s many friends, family, and neighbors in the Cornerbook subdivision turned out in force to show their love and admiration for the Korean War veteran who admitted being surprised that others would give up their Sunday afternoon to throw him a parade and spend time with him on his special day.

“Honestly, I was shocked they did this,” Braley said. “I was told to sit down here by the road, and I did and then all of a sudden people drive by honking and there are fire trucks with sirens going off. I think it’s great to get to be 90 years old, that’s for sure.”

He was born in Somesville, Maine as the only child of the late Walter Braley Sr., and Eva (Cirard) Braley. When he was 10, his family moved to Scarborough so his parents could work in the shipyard there.

In 1947, Braley, enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps at the age of 17. He completed basic training at Camp Lejune in North Carolina and then was commissioned for active duty by Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith.

During his time as a Marine, Brayley was stationed at bases in Cuba, California and in Korea. While in Korea he patrolled the DMZ, the no man’s land separating South Korea from its hostile North Korea neighbor.

“I walked across the DMZ before Donald Trump ever did a few years ago when he did so with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un,” Braley said. “I did it first.”

While stationed at Moffett Field in Mountain View, California, Braley was asked to pick up a fellow Marine, future county music superstar George Jones, who was just about to launch his recording career.

According to Braley, Jones would go out with his friends when they were on weekend leave and perform songs in exchange for drinks and Braley was among the group Jones came to know.

Years later when Jones was in Maine to perform a concert, he introduced the audience to Braley and asked him where he had been since he last saw him in the 1950s.

“Right here,” Braley said.

Because of an injury he sustained in Korea, Braley eventually was discharged from the Marines at the rank of Sergeant and returned to Maine.

He worked for a veterinarian in Saco and spent most of his adult life working for the Animal Refuge League in Westbrook. Since his retirement, he’s been an active participant in the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion in Windham, and he also volunteers extensively.

Windham VFW Post 10643 Commander Willie Goodman said that Braley’s work on behalf of the VFW is inspiring.

“He’s known as our unofficial recruiter and is constantly bringing new members to our organization,” Goodman said.

When Goodman suggested that the post honor him on his 90th birthday with a surprise drive-by celebration and a photo album recalling his time with the VFW post, the response was overwhelming. 

“We had no shortage of people wanting to do something nice for Walter’s birthday,” Goodman said. “Everyone loves this man.”

Among the special visitors who turned out for the birthday celebration were Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce and Cindy Beaulieu of the Quilts of Honor group.

Joyce presented Brayley with special “Challenge Coins” given to those held in special esteem for free coffee or breakfast at a local restaurant while Beaulieu presented him with a special quilt honoring his military service.

“First we honor you for your service,” Beaulieu told Braley. “Second, freedom is not free, and we thank you for your service. We hope this quilt brings comfort to you as you are forever in our thoughts and in our hearts.”

She said to date Quilts of Honor has made and presented 280,855 quilts to American veterans, including the one given to Braley.

“I just want to say thanks to everyone for coming out here today and recognizing me in this way,” Braley said. “You’ve made me feel appreciated and you can’t ask for more than that in this life. I’m deeply grateful and to all my fellow Marines, I say Semper Fi.”  <   

Raymond could donate land for site of new community middle school

If RSU 14's Board of Directors accepts a proposal from the 
town of Raymond to donate a 45-acre tract near the Windham
town line for a new middle school site, Jordan-Small Middle
School could close and Raymond students would attend a
combined middle school with Windham students when the 
new school is built and opened in 2026.
PHOTO BY ED PIERCE   
By Ed Pierce

The lingering issue for RSU 14 about where to locate the site of the new middle school could be a bit clearer following Tuesday night’s meeting of the Raymond Select Board as members voted unanimously to recommend sending students to the new school when it opens in 2026.

Raymond Town Manager Don Willard said that Raymond Select Board members also voted to recommend to the RSU 14 Board of Directors to provide up to 45 acres of town-owned property at no cost for the site of the new school near the border with Windham and on a proposed connector route.     

This gift is contingent upon and subject to a Special Town Meeting approval as a part of the next Board of Selectmen meeting on Nov. 9 and that the property naturally is to be used as the site of the new school,” Willard said.

The Maine Board of Education has greenlighted construction of a new middle school for Windham and RSU 14 is currently in the process of seeking a site to locate the new school.  

The original Windham Middle School was completed in 1977 and was built for a capacity of 483 students.  In the past year, that number has grown to 636 students, with sixth graders being housed for some classes at the adjacent Field Allen School, originally constructed in 1949.

During a Raymond Board of Selectmen meeting in September, RSU 14 Representative Mike McClellan of Raymond briefed select board members that the state has asked if Raymond would join Windham in sending students to the new school.

McClellan said that if Raymond chose not to do this, it is unlikely that the state would eventually approve new middle school construction for Raymond in the future replacing Jordan-Small Middle School, which now has 192 students total and was built in 1960.

RSU 14 Superintendent Christopher Howell also attended that meeting and told Select Board members that the idea of sending Raymond students to the new Windham Middle School was not part of an agenda to close Jordan-Small Middle School. 

Howell said the state is looking to combine smaller schools and renovations for Jordan-Small Middle School will still be included in the RSU budget, but the state will be unlikely to approve funding for any new construction.

Should Raymond residents decide to send its middle school students to the new school, the Jordan-Small Middle School building will revert to ownership of the town.

Over the two nights of the public hearings, there were roughly 30 individuals from the public who attended.  A majority of those who spoke at the meetings were in favor of keeping JSMS open,” Howell said. “The two straw polls that were taken also supported the idea of keeping the building open.”

According to Howell, the Raymond Select Board’s vote is one step in this process and will be considered by the RSU 14 board as they make this decision.

“I anticipate a decision by the RSU board in early November,” Howell said.

The discussion about the fate of Jordan-Small Middle School comes on the heels of the 2020 referendum in the town of Raymond to withdraw from RSU 14. In that vote, Raymond residents rejected withdrawing from RSU 14 to form its own school district with 2,047 voters saying no to the proposal and 1,018 voting to withdraw. It was the second time in five years that Raymond voters formally rejected a measure to withdraw from RSU 14 with the other rejection taking place in 2015.

“Throughout the public hearings, families shared that they liked being part of the RSU.  Additionally, many shared that they liked the small school feel of Jordan-Small,” Howell said. “Throughout that process, the RSU reiterated that there were not any plans to close the building as part of any district restructuring.  The question facing the town of Raymond is about whether they should be part of this opportunity that has been given to the district.  I feel that I can move forward with a decision that is made in either direction.”

He said that if a decision is made by the RSU 14 Board of Directors board to consolidate, the project’s architects will begin the process of programming for a larger school.

“If the decision is made to keep the building open, we will keep moving forward with the plan to complete the revolving renovation upgrades to Jordan-Small Middle School,” Howell said. “Windham Middle School will continue moving forward as a single-town middle school.” <

Friday, October 8, 2021

Second season of ‘Hearts of New England’ series to premiere in Windham

By Ed Pierce

The second-season premiere of the television series 'Hearts of
New England' will debut at Smitty's Theater in Windham at
6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 27. Much of the show is filmed in
and around Windham and the Lakes Region.
COURTESY PHOTO

Creativity has been the calling card of Justin Fortin since he first chose to become an actor and his dream of creating a television drama filmed in Maine using an all-New England cast became a reality in 2018 with the premiere of the first season “Hearts of New England.” Now Fortin is ready to unveil a second season of the show filmed locally and it will debut at a special event at Smitty’s Theater at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 27 in Windham.

The series airs on Great Falls TV, which can be found when subscribing to Maine Event Films on You Tube. The first season of “Hearts of New England” drew reviews from critics all over the world for its authenticity and Fortin is aiming to sell the series to a major network once he completes five seasons of filming.

“This series has awesome talent from throughout New England,” Fortin said. “People who watch the second season are going to recognize local businesses and many of their friends and neighbors in the background of scenes.”

A lot of the filming for the second season of “Hearts of New England” was shot at locations around Sebago Lake, including at a number of beaches in both Windham and Raymond, and a scene was also completed at the Windham Barber Shop on Roosevelt Trail.

“Hearts of New England” is created, written, and directed by Fortin and tells the story of a soldier returning home to Maine from serving in a war, only to become embroiled in a war at home as he learns that his father is connected to the mob.

Using local talent, Fortin’s cast has grown from a total of six in the show’s first season to now numbering about 20 to 25 speaking roles for the second season.

Gathering the cast for filming again after the end of the first season proved to a significant challenge for Fortin.

“It’s very hard to film a series because you have to get actors to come back,” he said. “For a feature film or a short film completed in a few weeks that's one thing but getting everyone back for a series is much harder.”

Fortin, who owns Maine Event Films, said a lot of the series cast and production crew was found through local theater groups.

“Many of the actors are people who’ve done theater and community plays before,” he said. “But in filming year-round as we do for this series, a lot of people have jobs and it’s tough to get them during the week. We try to film whenever we can and accommodate their schedules.”

According to Fortin, the second season of “Hearts of New England” is much improved over the first one, which featured 10 installment episodes and last aired original episodes in July 2020.

“This second season is so much better because the cast is in sync having worked with each other for a while now and really knowing their characters,” he said. “The performances for this new season are 10 times better.”

He also said viewers of the second season of the show are in for a major surprise this year.

“We’ll throw a curveball at people and a big finish that people won’t be expecting,” Fortin said. “They won’t expect to see this coming.”

Married and the father of five children, Fortin was born Lewiston and attended high school in Poland. He started acting professionally in 2016 after auditioning and landing a role in the film “Paper City Burnout.”

He works as a manager at Walmart in Windham and films “Hearts of New England” when he can fit it into his busy schedule.

Whatever he’s doing with the show is working. It has been honored as a selection for film and television festivals in 50 different countries and in five different states, including in Reno, Nevada, where the first season of the show was awarded “Best Relationship Drama.”

Fortin and the cast have recently gotten back together and are now filming a third season of the series at locations in Windham and other sites in the Lakes Region.

“The project is 100 percent funded and investment is pretty good,” he said.    

The public is cordially invited to attend the local premiere at Smitty’s on Oct. 27 and many of the actors in the cast from both season one and season two are planning to attend the red-carpet event. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at Event Bright.

“It’s going to be a really good time,” Fortin said. “We’re hoping that many people will come out and support local talent. We feature many people from the area in our filming. There are not many premieres in Maine, so this one is going to be special.” <