2014-10-17 / Front Page

Waterhouse Center unveiled

Annual Harvest Fest features ribbon cutting for town’s newest venue
By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer


Geraldine Waterhouse, above center, smiles at her granddaughter, Paige Schroeder, after cutting the ribbon to officially open the Waterhouse Center. Waterhouse’s endowment of $1.5 million to the town facilitated the construction of the center, which will be used for community functions and family activities. Left, vendors set up booths on two sides of the Waterhouse Center on Saturday for the annual Harvest Fest celebration. Local, seasonal goods, such as spiced cookies, cider, bread and knitted articles of clothing were sold. With the exception of three events, including Harvest Fest, an indefinite moratorium has been put on all vendors at the Waterhouse Center. (Alex Acquisto photos) Geraldine Waterhouse, above center, smiles at her granddaughter, Paige Schroeder, after cutting the ribbon to officially open the Waterhouse Center. Waterhouse’s endowment of $1.5 million to the town facilitated the construction of the center, which will be used for community functions and family activities. Left, vendors set up booths on two sides of the Waterhouse Center on Saturday for the annual Harvest Fest celebration. Local, seasonal goods, such as spiced cookies, cider, bread and knitted articles of clothing were sold. With the exception of three events, including Harvest Fest, an indefinite moratorium has been put on all vendors at the Waterhouse Center. (Alex Acquisto photos) KENNEBUNK — A few hundred people braved the October chill on Saturday to attend the first day of Harvest Fest in the new Waterhouse Center, located in the heart of downtown Kennebunk.

“Isn’t this beautiful?” one resident said, looking around at the newly-minted structure. “It’s fabulous,” said another.

Vendors, who lined either side of the openair pavilion, sold seasonal items such as homemade cookies and cider and homemade knitted sweaters and gloves.

A bouncy house bursting with jumping children sat at the front corner, and a stage at the opposite corner. Two Clydesdale horses repeatedly filed down Main Street carting an open trailer full of parents and children.

“When I look out, this is exactly what this was built for,” said Selectman Deb Beal during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Geraldine Waterhouse, the benefactress who made the pavilion possible, sat at center stage. Next to her sat her granddaughter, Paige Schroeder, Town Manager Barry Tibbetts and members of the board of selectmen.

When Tibbetts introduced Waterhouse to the crowd amassed in front of the stage, She was greeted with loud cheers and a standing ovation.

Tibbetts explained how he and Waterhouse, after she started an endowment of $1.5 million to foster youth activities, began brainstorming a year ago about what to build on the parcel, which was a vacant lot at the time.

Waterhouse had voiced fond memories of walking to a local ice rink as a child in Montreal, Tibbetts said. Through a collaborative effort the town drafted an open pavilion structure, which would have a concrete floor during warmer months and an ice rink in the winter months.

With the aid of donations and fundraisers like the buy-a-brick campaign, the town raised more than $630,000 for the project.

“This is a different type of economic engine,” Tibbetts said to the crowd. “It really does bring people to the downtown.”

The structure is 100 by 120 feet, with an interior height of 22 ½ feet. The ice rink will be 60 by 90 feet, Tibbetts said. Because the roof will eclipse a view of the stars when skating at night, three disco balls will hang from the ceiling.

Two large screens that have been installed on opposite corners of the center will project a live camera feed of skaters.

Tibbetts explained that parents will have the option of dropping their kids off to skate and, by downloading an app on their smart phone, will be able to stream the live feed from the camera so they can remotely watch their children.

“This is all going to be available (because of) the endowment,” Tibbetts said to the crowd. Turning to Waterhouse he said, “Your donation really gave us a way to see this project to completion.”

The crowd gave another standing ovation.

Selectman Al Searles said, “I never thought we would get to this point this quickly. I’m going to continue to work toward that goal for other things in our downtown.”

Waterhouse told the crowd that she is “so pleased” to be able to work with the town to help build a gathering point for the community.

Upcoming activities at the Waterhouse Center include Touch-a-Truck in November, and a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony and skating with Santa and the elves on Saturday, Nov. 29.

Tibbetts also noted that Kennebunk will potentially host the only Shakespeare-onice performance in the country, in January. Other interactive events for kids and families include free ice-skating lessons throughout the winter and street-skating lessons in the spring and summer.

“I think this is going to be an asset to the town and downtown for many years to come,” said Selectman John Kotsonis.

Said Beal, “This isn’t just the pulse, it’s the heart of the town. I thank you, all, for putting this heart in our downtown.”

For more information on upcoming events at the Waterhouse Center, visit www.kennebunkmaine.us and refer to the link at the bottom of the column.

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