HOULTON, Maine — The Anah Temple Shriners will descend on the greater Houlton area for the group’s annual Summer Ceremonial in June, but the 200 people attending will stay in some unexpected places.
The June 16-18 event marks the first time in a decade that the Summer Ceremonial will be held in the Houlton region and just the sixth time since 1967 that it will be held in Aroostook County.
The Summer Ceremonial is held annually in the hometown of the current potentate — the group’s leader. It includes cribbage and golf tournaments as well as an induction ceremony for any new nobles or inductees into the Shrine organization and, of course, a parade. Anah Temple Shrine is based in Bangor and has members from Waterville to the Crown of Maine.
Houlton has just three motels that have been booked steadily by contractors working at Louisiana Pacific as part of a major plant renovation, and local campgrounds had no vacancies either.
Finding enough lodging for everyone has proven challenging, said Potentate Galen White of Houlton.
“It was a big problem initially, because none of the local motels were willing to commit a big number of rooms for just three days,” White said. “We had a large waiting list of people looking for places to stay, but last time I checked, that list is down to about three individuals.”
To remedy the lodging shortage, the Houlton Town Council granted Shriners permission to place campers inside the Community Park. The group also asked the Houlton Fair Association if it could use some of the property in that park because some lots are equipped with water and electricity, White said.
“We were also able to have some folks stay down at the Brookside Motel in Smyrna, and others found accommodations in Mars Hill,” White said. “We will also have a large group staying at a campground down in Medway [nearly 60 miles away]. They are scattered, but we will make it work.”
According to the history of the Anah Shriners, the first headquarters was on the two upper floors at 28 Main St., Bangor. For the next 60 years, the club was located at 39 Columbia St. in Bangor before moving to 586 Main St. for the next 35 years. As of September 2015, the group is based out of 1404 Broadway in Bangor.
Anah Shriners of Bangor held its first meeting on July 1, 1921, with James A. Dunning as the first potentate and George B. Freeland the first recorder, and received its charter on June 15, 1922. Prior to the creation of Anah Shriners, Kora Shriners of Lewiston was the only temple in Maine.
At its peak, the group had more than 4,000 members, but today that number is closer to 2,800.
The Houlton event will be held at the Millar Civic Center in Houlton’s Community Park. The Shriners were granted permission for off-premises catering at the Civic Center on June 17-18 for two nights of banquets.
Houlton last hosted a Summer Ceremonial in 2012 when Tony Bowers served as potentate. Presque Isle hosted the event in 2014 and 2006, when Dick Hallett served as potentate. Caribou hosted the event in 1995 when Goodwin Gilman was the leader.
Included in the festival is a large parade featuring up to 33 marching and go-kart units as well as clowns from Aroostook County and the Anah Temple in Bangor. Costumed superheroes are also part of the parade.
The June 18 parade at 2 p.m. will follow the same route as Houlton’s Fourth of July parade starting and ending at the Catholic Church. White added he hopes the community of Houlton and the surrounding area will turn out in large numbers for the parade.
“There is nothing a Shriner dislikes more than a parade with nobody watching,” he said.