Kittery wraps up 375th birthday with party and Taste this weekend

D. Allan Kerr
D. Allan Kerr

As it began, so shall it end. For the most part.

The initial Taste of Kittery, held in the town’s Post Office Square last October, marked the official kickoff for Kittery’s yearlong 375th celebration. This Saturday’s Taste of Kittery event will serve as the punctuation mark for festivities paying tribute to Maine’s oldest town over the past 12 months.

Kittery 375th logo
Kittery 375th logo

The weekend will first feature a kids-oriented Birthday Bash Friday afternoon on the lawn of the Kittery Community Center. The party will be complete with carnival games, bounce houses, an obstacle course, dessert walk, shaved-ice truck, pony rides, Kittery 375th T-shirts, a fortune teller, live music from Traip Academy students, food, and three tents with hands-on activities provided by Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

Kittery teachers and administrators are helping out as volunteers, and students from the Traip boat building class and school football team will be on hand as well.

“You only turn 375 once” is the apparent theme of the bash, according to the Kittery 375th Celebration Committee website.

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A bike parade will also take place at the Birthday Bash, where kids can decorate their bikes in honor of the community and its history. Bicyclists are asked to line up in front of the KCC at 4:50 p.m. for the parade to commence at 5 p.m. Prizes for all participants will be available, as will awards for first, second and third place.

Bicyclists can e-mail Jane Durgin of the Kittery School Department at The department is hosting the event in collaboration with the 375th committee, and Kennebunk Savings Bank is sponsoring the kid fest. The celebration will be held from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

“It's going to be a great event for all and a wonderful way to say Happy Birthday Kittery,” Durgin declared this week.

While admission is free, refreshments and game tickets will be available for purchase. Part of the proceeds from ticket sales will go toward the Kittery PTA and the Pam Hoyt Sanborn Scholarship Fund.

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In addition, Seacoast Fridge will have collection bins at the site for residents to drop off food and household items. In highest demand are school snacks like pretzels, beef jerky and trail mix; cleaning supplies like soap, detergent and sponges; and personal care items including shampoo, hair brushes and feminine hygiene products.

And of course fruit and veggies.

Then a more adult-oriented soiree is scheduled for the following afternoon just a few blocks down the road at Post Office Square, from 1 to 4 p.m. Taste of Kittery provides a unique opportunity for residents to sample the offerings of local eateries and the town’s burgeoning brewery presence, all in one location.

Taste participants scheduled so far include Aroma Joe's Coffee, Beach Pea Baking Company, Black Birch Restaurant, Buoy Shack Lobster & Drinks, Definitive Brewing Company, Kasha’s Kitchen, Lil's Cafe, Loco Cocos Tacos, Maine Beer Cafe, NOBL Beverages, Ore Nell’s Barbecue, Rose's Spring Rolls, Rudders Public House, The Black Birch, Tributary Brewing Company, Tulsi Restaurant, Urban Farm Fermentory & Gruit Brewing Co. and Woodland Farms Brewery.

Tickets for the Taste of Kittery can be purchased at or at the community center. Pre-event tickets are available at $35 each for standard admission, which includes entry and tastes from all non-alcoholic participants, and an upgraded $40 to also include up to five pours from beer vendors. On the day of the event, the ticket prices will be $45 and $50, respectively.

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Live music will be included as well, with performances by Soulcolor, Elroy and Jake Davis and the Whiskey Stones.

“It’s been great to see the town celebrate itself over the last year. The diversity of the community has been highlighted throughout the year,” KCC Executive Director Jeremy Paul said recently. “It’s a proud town and the response to the year-long celebration showed that.”

Over the months between last year’s Taste of Kittery gathering and Saturday’s celebration, a series of wide-ranging occasions took place throughout the town to commemorate Kittery’s milestone anniversary. Free historical lectures, a Seacoast gardens tour, and tours of the summer home of the late literary giant William Dean Howells were all provided.

A monthlong Kittery Arts Festival this summer allowed attendees to recognize some of the town’s local artists and performers. Rice Public Library partnered with the Maine State Library to mark the anniversary through an ongoing program called Read ME, in which participants engage in a shared experience by reading books from Maine authors. Earlier this month, the library hosted a performance by sea shanty singer David Coffin.

Just last week, local documentarian Jim White premiered his film about “The Many Lives of Fort McClary” (also for free) at the KCC. Last month, the Wood Island Life Saving Station Association sponsored a fireworks display over the Piscataqua River to salute both Kittery’s 375th and the 232nd birthday of the United States Coast Guard, which has a long history with the town.

One of the great highlights from the past year was the release of a unique cookbook put together by resident and 375th Celebration Committee member Betsy Page Wish. Compiled from countless interviews during the pandemic, “Kittery’s Maine Ingredients” includes not only recipes dating back to the 1600s, but also many photos, historical anecdotes and family stories from generations of local folks.

The book is going to be a Kittery treasure for years to come, and profits from sales are being donated to local nonprofit organizations addressing food insecurity.

Some occasions were not planned specifically to mark Kittery’s 375th, but happened to enhance the celebration nonetheless. For instance, Maine Gov. Janet Mills happened to turn up at the town’s annual Independence Day ceremony in June, which each year features a reading of the Declaration of Independence by the embodiment of hometown boy Gen. William Whipple, who signed the document in 1776.

The long-awaited reopening of Rice Public Library, the town’s crown jewel, after a major renovation and expansion project also took place this year. The official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the building, originally built in 1888, was held earlier this month. And a restored 1930s surfboat is being berthed at Wood Island in another ceremony next week.

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While this weekend’s festivities will be the last town-wide public gathering to cap the year-long birthday party, there will still be other moments to mark the milestone of this historic town. Another Jim White documentary, this one entitled “The Unvarnished Truth,” about 18th-century Kittery icon Sir William Pepperrell is scheduled to premier on Dec. 8 in the KCC’s Star Theatre.

Seacoast Media Group has also been gracious enough to run a monthly series of historical articles about Maine’s oldest town over the past year.

Kittery tradition has long held that the town was incorporated on 20 October 1647, the first town in Maine to do so. However, up to now no original documentation has turned up to confirm this date. Some historians maintain the actual date of birth is October 1649, and others offer the year of 1652, which is when Kittery agreed to be part of Massachusetts.

My own opinion is that when Sir Ferdinando Gorges, who essentially established Maine to be his personal fiefdom, died in 1647, Kittery inhabitants chose this opportunity to assert their independence. As such, the 375th milestone isn’t far off the mark.

At any rate, it’s been a heck of a ride for the past 375 years, and especially over the past 12 months.

D. Allan Kerr is a Kittery resident and frequent contributing columnist.

This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: Kittery ME wraps up 375th birthday celebration this weekend