BERLIN — The bonfires in the Androscoggin River will burn Saturday as RiverFire takes place at Service Credit Union Heritage Park.
But the event has been redesigned due to the surge in positive COVID-19 cases in the valley, and attendees are asked to wear masks and social distance.
“Although things are going to be different this year, we are looking forward to lighting up the river once again,” said Androscoggin Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Paula Kinney. “We are asking the public’s help to make the event safe by wearing masks and social distancing.”
Many of the key components of RiverFire will remain.
The Zombie Poker Run will start with registration at 9 a.m. The event is open to ATVs, Jeeps and regular motor vehicles.
Kinney said there are 12 stops with five required for a poker hand. She said prizes are awarded for the first, second, third and worst hands and best use of the theme.
The event is sponsored by MOMS Jericho and MOMS North Country PowerSports.
Hundreds of pumpkins have been handed out for carving and Kinney said instead of displaying them on the pedestrian bridge, the pumpkins this year will be spread out along the river. She said the lit carved pumpkins will be easily viewed without the congestion that can occur on the bridge.
Kinney said the beer tent and food concession stands will be spread around the grounds and the event will use the entire area between the park and the 12th Street Bridge to provide social distancing.
There will be a wide variety of fair food available as well as some craft booths. Performing onstage will be Maine band Something Stupid, specializing in cover songs and comedy.
Helicopter rides will still be offered and with the foliage being late this year, organizers expect they will provide some dramatic views of the river and city.
The title event — the fires on the boom piers in the river — will take place at dusk. The wood is already loaded on the boom piers, ready to be ignited.
The view of the fires on the river is nothing short of spectacular.
Recognizing the importance of RiverFire to both the business community and local morale, Kinney said the chamber worked hard to make the event safe. Because of the high COVID-19 levels, the hayrides, bouncy houses, and the cornhole tournament have been canceled.
The RiverFire 5K Run/Walk has been converted to a virtual event. It serves as the major fundraising event for Response — A Domestic & Sexual Violence Support Center. Runners who registered for the event can pick out their route and run it.
It can be done in phases or by walking or running.
RiverFire was canceled last year because of COVID-19, as were all of the chamber’s big outdoor events. This year, the chamber was able to host its WingZilla event and had scheduled events for RiverFire.
Faced with the recent surge in COVID-19 cases (see related story), the chamber decided to revise RiverFire to make it safe, recognizing that some vendors had already purchased goods and supplies for it.