Friday, June 19, 2020

Virtual Summerfest celebrates Windham community and its heroes

By Elizabeth Richards

When it became clear that Summerfest couldn’t be held in the traditional way in Windham this year, the Summerfest committee got to work, converting it to a virtual event intended to unite the community.

I want to thank those committee members who have stepped forward to manage all of the pieces of this virtual event – in many ways, doing it this way is more challenging, and I greatly appreciate the efforts made to still pull this off,” said Linda Brooks, director of Windham Parks and Recreation. “Saying it was canceled for 2020 was certainly an option that people would have understood, but this committee couldn’t accept that as their answer.”

Dave Bulger, a school bus driver for RSU14, has been honored
with the Modern Woodmen of America's Hometown Hero Award
for this year's Windham Summerfest celebration.
A virtual event is not without challenges when everything must be managed remotely.

“Even the committee has been meeting via Zoom, and we miss the opportunity for face-to-face collaboration,” Brooks said, acknowledging that it’s a challenge to find “something for everyone” with a virtual event.

Another challenge is getting the word out to everyone in Windham, said Robin Mullins, co-chair of the committee.

“Not everyone has online access and there may be people that might just miss it.”  

The main goal for this year was to send a message that Summerfest is not gone, it just has a different look this year, Brooks said.

“The committee was still dedicated to the notion of bringing unity to the community at a time when people have not been able to get together in their usual ways,” she said.

Mullins said that even though Windham residents cannot physically be together, they can still have fun together and celebrate the wonderful community we are all so fortunate to be a part of.

“We also want to celebrate the fact that this year represents Maine's Bicentennial,” she said.

The online celebration includes a weekly photo contest, an opportunity to post photos of past Summerfest celebrations, presentation of the Modern Woodmen of America Hometown Hero Award, and a virtual 5K.

The Modern Woodmen of America’s Hometown Hero Award is presented each year to someone in the community that dedicates himself or herself to serving others. This year’s recipient, announced at the June 9 Windham Town Council meeting, is Dave Bulger, a bus driver for RSU14 who “goes above and beyond for his kids,” said Deb Matthews, co-chair of the Summerfest committee.

Bulger said he learned that he’d been named the recipient when a friend tagged him on Facebook saying thank you.  When he asked why, someone else commented that he’d been selected.

“I didn’t even know such a thing existed,” Bulger said. “I was really taken aback,” Bulger said.  “I didn’t really think I did anything special.”

Bulger began driving a van for the REAL school in 2013, where he really connected with the students.  After that program ended, he said, he wanted to stay with the district, so he got his bus driver’s license and took a job driving for RSU14. 

He took a short break a few years ago but missed his co-workers and the kids so returned to the job, “and I haven’t looked back since,” he said.

Bulger said he tries to meet kids where they are.  He also tries to make the bus ride fun, especially for the younger children.  Often, he said, he’ll use his “DJ Dave” voice to act like a tour guide as they travel on Route 302.

Bulger designs silly cards for the students for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and at the end of the school year. For the past couple of years, he said, he has included a card for a free ice cream at the Ice Cream Dugout, which allows him to give the kids a trea,t but also to be sure families have control over the sugar consumption.

“I try to make it special.  This year, I’m really saddened that I can’t do that because I’m not going to see them,” Bulger said.

The response and support from the community around the photo contest has been fun to see, said Barb Maurais, who has coordinated that aspect of Summerfest.

Some of the themes have lent themselves to more participation, but we definitely are receiving photo entries each week,” she said.

“We are meeting our goal of reaching out to our community ~ our friends, family, and neighbors and we are adding anticipation, excitement, and, of course, weekly prizes,” Maurais said.

Photo Contest winners are determined by which photo receives the most “likes” on the Facebook Page.  The theme for June 13 to June 19 event is Celebrating Maine’s Bicentennial, and from June 18 to June 24 all Summerfest participants – organizations, nonprofits, businesses, community groups, vendors, crafters, parade participants, bands and performers – are invited to share their profile, website, information and services on the Summerfest Facebook Page.

The Virtual Windham Summerfest 5K will round out the celebration and raise money for the Windham Parks & Recreation Department. Rather than gathering in a group for the race, participants will register and then choose their own 5K route and run whenever they like over the weekend of June 20 and June 21.

Rather than a set registration fee, there are suggested donation amounts of $10 per individual or $30 for a family of four.  All are welcome to register, regardless of whether they are able to make a donation, and any donation amount is acceptable.

The first 75 participants to register will receive a T-shirt.  Donations will help the Parks & Recreation Department provide meals for senior citizens, craft kits to include in RSU14 Food4Kids backpacks, virtual family trivia nights, community-wide trail scavenger hunts, and grocery and food pantry delivery to senior citizens. Registration is at

Although fireworks are planned for a later date, it is dependent on the governor’s reopening plan, Mullins said, so no date has been selected. 

“As we wait for guidance from the CDC along with decisions about when these types of large group gatherings will be approved, we have been unable to solidify any plans regarding the fireworks,” Brooks said.

Sponsors for 2020 Summerfest are Hannaford Supermarkets, Landing Real Estate, Legal Leaf LLC, Shaw Brothers, and Walmart.  Summerfest committee members are: Robin Mullins and Deb Matthews (co-chairs). Tom Matthews, Barb Maurais, Liza Libby. Aaron Pieper, Karen Rumo, and Katie Varney. <

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