PondFest celebration proves more popular than ever

SOLDIER POND, Maine — The 5th annual PondFest celebration and fundraiser in Soldier Pond brought in more visitors than ever on Sunday, July 1, with nearly 1,000 guests throughout the day according to organizer Elaine Desjardins.

Desjardins is the founder of the Soldier Pond Beautification Committee, which aims to improve the area. Money raised from the PondFest celebrations, which take place near the Fourth of July holiday each year, provides funding to maintain United States flags in the community.

Desjardins said the group also is raising money to pay for a Veteran’s Memorial to honor local veterans and a pavilion, both of which would be located near the Soldier Pond boat landing, where the PondFest celebrations take place. PondFest 2018 raised more than $3,000, according to Desjardins.

But the annual PondFest events are more than fundraisers, according to Desjardins. They are about bringing members of the community together and celebrating all that is special about Soldier Pond.

Desjardins pointed out the fun children experience while splashing in the water at the boat landing on a hot sunny day or making their way across the river for more adventurous outdoor excitement.

“With the pond right there, a lot of kids go over there on the rope swing across from the boat landing; the big ones are across the pond on the rope swing like the old days,” Desjardins said.

PondFest is an all day affair, and most events are free. The committee raises funds by selling grilled hot dogs and hamburgers along with side dishes and cold drinks, and through a rubber duck race.

Other free events include a parade, horse and buggy rides, children’s face painting, kids carnival games, including a bounce house, and fireworks at the end of the evening.

Musical entertainment also is free at PondFest and this year was provided by SAD 27 music teacher Taylor Martin, as well as several Valley Rivers Middle School students, recent Fort Kent Community High School graduate Jonny Blanchette, and eighth-grader Tia Saucier who sang the national anthem.

“You could hear it over the water; it was just beautiful,” Desjardins said of Tia Saucier’s patriotic performance.

Desjardins has much support in organizing and maintaining the PondFest events including from her six children and husband, James Desjardins, Sr.

“We all have our role,” said Desjardins’ daughter, JoAnne O’Leary.  

O’Leary said she is proud of her parents for the efforts they make to celebrate her hometown.

“They are both 70. (My father) will never retire. He still works 20 hours a day (as a logger). He puts most people to shame,” O’Leary said. “My mom is retired from teaching for 21 years. She is also a hard worker. She knows how to bring it all together. She does millions of calls and arranges donations for our festival.”

“My husband Kelly O’Leary does an amazing fireworks display every year. When it finished this year, I heard some people asking if it was a fireworks expert from Bangor who did the show,” JoAnne O’Leary said. “It’s great to see our little town alive again.”

To contribute to the Soldier Pond Beautification Committee, call Elaine Desjardins at (207) 834-5189.

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