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Ray Routhier

Portland Press Herald staff writer Ray Routhier will try anything. Once. During 20 years at the Press Herald he’s been equally attracted to stories that are unusually quirky and seemingly mundane. He’s taken rides on garbage trucks, sought out the mother of two rock stars, dug clams, raked blueberries, and spent time with the family of bedridden man who finds strength in music. Nothing too dangerous mind you, just adventurous enough to find the stories of real Mainers doing real cool things.

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Posted: June 29, 2016

Staying in town for the 4th? Two events will mark Portland’s ‘Great Fire’

The ‘Stars and Stripes Spectacular’ on the Eastern Promenade features fireworks and the Portland Symphony Orchestra, while the Maine Historical Society hosts a reading of the Declaration of Independence and a walking tour of fire sites.

Written by: Ray Routhier
Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer: Fireworks and PSO Pops at the Eastern Prom in Portland on Sunday, July 4, 2010.

Fireworks and PSO Pops at the Eastern Prom in Portland on July 4, 2010. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

The Great Portland Fire of 1866 destroyed much of the city, but locals eventually rebuilt and carried on, in the best tradition of the American can-do spirit.

On Monday, two Portland Independence Day celebrations will recognize the 150th anniversary of the fire.

The Maine Historical Society will offer walking tours of the fire route, and the Portland Symphony Orchestra will play music selected to commemorate the dramatic event as prelude to the fireworks show.

At 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. the historical society will offer walking tours of the route of the Great Fire ($15) as well as tours of the Wadsworth-Longfellow House (also $15), which is run by the historical society. Visitors can view the new exhibition “Images of Destruction: Remembering the Great Portland Fire of 1866,” featuring objects that survived the fire and art depicting the fire.

Also Monday, the historical society will host a free reading of the Declaration of Independence. Local historian Herb Adams will read in front of the Wadsworth-Longfellow House, 489 Congress St., Portland. For more information go to

Gabe Souza/Staff photographer...Photographed on Monday, July 4, 2011...Fireworks on Portland's Eastern Promenade.

Fireworks on Portland’s Eastern Promenade on July 4, 2011. Gabe Souza/Staff photographer

Later on Monday, the city’s annual Fourth of July celebration, “The Stars and Stripes Spectacular,” will take place on the Eastern Promenade.

The Portland Symphony Orchestra will begin a selection of patriotic tunes at 7:40 p.m. with the fireworks show starting at around 9:20 p.m. The orchestra will play during the fireworks.

Music director Robert Moody said he chose this year’s music to commemorate the dramatic fire. Selections will include “1984 Olympic Fanfare and Theme” and a compilation of music from the newest “Star Wars” film plus “Stars and Stripes Forever” and other patriots works. The performance by the PSO will be broadcast live on Portland radio station WHOM.

The event has included a guest performing along with the symphony every other year since the privately funded event started in 2010. Last year singer Melissa Manchester appeared, and in 2013 singer Don McLean took the stage. This year is an off year in terms of celebrity guests.

Vendors will start selling food and souvenirs around 2 p.m. for people who want to gather early. For more information on the Stars and Stripes Spectacular, go to

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