While national and local headlines continued to feature the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, Midcoast Maine saw a slight return to normal with the introduction of the vaccine.

Some festivals and fairs returned to the area with pandemic precautions, while others cancelled for a second year.

Read on for highlights from 2021:

January

The opening of Highbrow in Rockland, Jan. 16.

Knox county’s first recreational marijuana shop opened for business in January.

Highbrow’s Rockland location at 696 Main St., in the former C.N. Brown building, had its grand opening Jan. 16.

Excited patrons were lined up outside in the rain, waiting to be the first customers.

Since then, two more recreational cannabis stores have opened in the area: Cannabis Cured in Thomaston and Botany on Main Street in Rockland.

February

Warren resident Catherine Poor turns 100 Feb. 27. Photo by Christine Simmonds

Catherine Poor of Warren turned 100 Feb. 27.

Poor celebrated this milestone birthday with her family.

Warren Town Manager Sherry Howard and Fire Chief Greg Andrews stopped by with flowers and the fire truck as well.

Poor is Warren’s oldest resident, and has previously been given the Warren Boston Post Cane, which is awarded to the oldest resident of a municipality.

March

Rockland Public Library Director Amy Levine and Rockland Historic Society President Brian Harden pose in front of the diorama of Mertie B. Crowley’s launch. Photo by Christine Simmonds

A historic piece of art was safely relocated to the Rockland Public Library March 2.

The diorama depicts the launching of the six-masted schooner Mertie B. Crowley in Rockland, Aug. 24, 1907.

This was the only six-masted schooner built in Rockland. Two years later in 1910, the ship sank near Chappaquiddick Island, Mass.

April

Kerry Altiero is named Community Person of the Year by Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce named Kerry Altiero of Owls Head Community Person of the Year.

Altiero is the owner and operator of Café Miranda in Rockland. He is also a well-known member of the community who regularly donates his time and talents to raising money for local causes.

The town of Friendship passed a policy to become a first amendment sanctuary city.

The first amendment guarantees freedom of speech, religion, petition, assemble and of the press by prohibiting Congress from making laws restricting those rights.

The town had previously passed a policy to be a second amendment sanctuary city. This amendment is the right to keep and bear arms.

The historic schooner Lewis R. French set sail for its 150th season at sea.

May

Rockland Police Officer Jeff Aeschlimann was awarded May 15 the 2020 Rockland Police Officer of the Year Award. His wife Grace is pictured with him. Photo courtesy of Rockland Police Department

Rockland police officer Jeff Aeschlimann was named 2020 Rockland Officer of the Year.

According to the nominating committee, “Officer Aeschlimann is a consummate professional both inside the department, and out in public, answering calls and delivering police services. He is a resource for his peers and embodies the team effort of Rockland PD. Officer Aeschlimann is motivated for personal success and the success of the department as a whole.”

June

June saw the annual changing of the guards with local select board elections.

Diane Giese won reelection in Thomaston, where voters also approved hiring an additional police officer.

In Waldoboro, William Pratt was elected to the select board and Abden Simmons won reelection.

Waldoboro voters also decided on the future of the AD Gray school building following months of spirited debate, with two opposing ballot items for the same space. One called for the sale of the building to Volunteers of America for $1 to create affordable senior housing. The other ballot item from a citizens’ petition proposed a park and the demolition of the building.

The article to sell the building to Volunteers of America for $1 to create affordable senior housing passed with 534 yes votes and 310 no votes.

The article that proposed a park on the same lot and called for the demolition of the building was voted down with 497 no votes and 344 yes votes.

John Crabtree was elected to the Warren Select Board, and Jan Macdonald was reelected.

In Union, Adam Fuller won reelection and James Justice was elected to the select board.

St. George hired Rick Erb of Brunswick to be the town manager from 28 applicants. Erb succeeded Tim Polky, who served as town manager since 2017 following a lengthy career with the town.

July

Anne Harris records a music video off festival grounds following her performance with Gumbo, Grits & Gravy at the 2021 North Atlantic Blues Festival July 10 Rockland. Photo by Christine Simmonds

July saw some changes at The Courier-Gazette.

Longtime Ellsworth American employee Chris Crockett was named publisher of the MaineStay Media group, which includes The Courier-Gazette, The Camden Herald, The Republican Journal and the Village Soup websites. Crockett also took leadership of The Free Press, The Ellsworth American, The Mount Desert Islander and two magazines: Maine Women Magazine and Mane Seniors Magazine.

Crockett has worked in the newspaper business since 1995.

Christine Simmonds was named assistant editor of The Courier-Gazette. Simmonds had worked as a reporter for the paper since 2019, following a lifetime of getting her news from the organization. Simmonds grew up in Rockland and has lived in Knox County most of her life.

Also in July, Rockland held a bicentennial bash for Maine and saw the return of the North Atlantic Blues Festival after a 2020 hiatus. Visitors from around the country came out to celebrate the blues and attend the club crawl on Main Street.

August

Aubrey Schaeffer is crowned 2021 Maine Wild Blueberry Ambassador at the Union Fair, Aug. 22. Photo by Christine Simmonds

Festivals and fairs continued in August with the Union Fair, Friendship Day and the Boats, Homes and Harbors show.

The Union Fair held its first annual Blueberry Ambassador contest, replacing the Blueberry Queen and opening the contest to all Maine residents within the age range. Prior to this, the Blueberry Queen required the contestants to be a young woman who was unmarried and had no children.

Aubrey Schaeffer of Union was named the 2021 Blueberry Ambassador.

Members of Winslow-Holbrook-Merritt American Legion Post in Rockland gathered Aug. 7 to raise a special flag recognizing those who were awarded a Purple Heart. Rockland Mayor Ed Glaser proclaimed Aug. 7 to be Purple Heart Day, and the flag will be raised each year on this day.

The Union Select Board voted to keep tax-acquired property on Coggins Hill after multiple lengthy discussions with the public and three offers to purchase the property.

Members of the public spoke about the importance of this property to them and the community.

The town later leased the blueberry fields on the property to Wyman’s Blueberries, and has created a committee to advise on the future of the property.

September

The controversial 120-foot cell phone tower from Bay Communications was raised Sept. 14 in Rockland.

The tower was first proposed in October 2019, and rejected by the Rockland Planning Board in February 2020.

“The City Council and Bay Communications III, LLC reached an agreement to allow the tower to be erected. The Rockland Planning Board challenged that agreement, but a federal judge dismissed its claims in April.”

The tower is located at 182 Camden St. next to Pizza Hut.

October

Thomaston residents examine the map showing a proposed route for the North Road, Oct 21. Photo by Dan Dunkle

After a month of news reporting on Thomaston’s downtown bypass, named the North Road Project, the town held a public information session and unveiled the engineering plans Oct. 21.

The meeting was standing room only.

Residents expressed concerns the new road would mean taking their property, decreasing safety and reducing property values. They also voiced questions about funding the project.

Town officials said this project has been in the works for multiple years, and it would solve major traffic problems. Engineers estimate it would cost between $11.5 and $14.8 million.

November

Nicole Kalloch is elected to Rockland City Council.

The Thomaston Select Board determined voters would decide the future of the North Road Project at the next Town Meeting.

November saw the closure of the Brass Compass restaurant and sale of the building. The building had been the home of Lynn Archer’s breakfast and lunch offerings for the past 20 years.

Archer sold the building to Tres Comas, LLC of Portland; RSP Main 1, LLC of South Berwick; and RSP Main 2, LLC of South Berwick.

November also saw a state election with a high turnout thanks to the CMP Corridor.

The Portland Press Herald reported Mainers voted decisively to kill a $1 billion transmission line project in western Maine.

Tux Turkel wrote: “With 450 of 571 precincts reporting, 59% of voters had said ‘yes’ to Question 1, a strong repudiation of Central Maine Power Co., its domestic parent company Avangrid and Canadian energy supplier Hydro-Quebec, as well as plans to finish the New England Clean Energy Connect project and put it into service. The ‘yes’ vote registered a strong showing in nearly every part of the state except Aroostook County as of 12 a.m. [election night].”

Local Knox County voters followed the state trend in supporting Question 1.

In Rockland,  political newcomer Nicole Kalloch unseated first-term Councilor Ben Dorr for a three-year seat on the Rockland City Council.

“Kalloch received 1,056 votes compared to Dorr’s 979 votes. She was sworn into office Nov. 15.

Rockland voters also approved the first pay raise for councilors in 41 years. Voters approved the charter change referendum 994 to 974. The referendum increases the council pay from $800 to $4,000, and $1,000 to $4,500 annually for the mayor. The pay was last increased in 1980. The pay hike will take effect July 1, 2022.”

The end of November saw the annual construction and lighting of the Rockland lobster trap tree, and the inaugural lighting of the town’s new menorah for Chanukah.

A Menorah was lighted Sunday evening, Nov. 28 for the first night of Hanukkah. Photo by Stephen Betts

December

Santa arrived in Rockland on Saturday morning, Nov. 27. Photo by Stephen Betts

Early in December, two state agencies supported a proposed expansion of Safe Harbor Marina in Rockland Harbor. This decision came following a November tour of the site.

“Maine Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Melanie Loyzim signed an approval of a Natural Resources Protection Act permit for the expanded marina.

The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry’s submerged land division issued findings and gave preliminary approval for the expansion. Final approval will await the end of the public response period on Jan. 7.”

The expansion project includes dredging a large area, relocating moorings and the expansion of the float system.

Opponents have voiced concerns about mega yachts using the space and the potential loss of harbor views.

The company and the city officials have been working together to keep public access to the boardwalk, built by MBNA in 2001.

In Union, the nonprofit running the Thompson Community Center informed the town they would be ending their lease on Dec. 31 and turning operation of the building back over to the town.

The nonprofit has been operating the building since the 1980s. The future of the building has been in question for many years.

Rockland started a statewide search for a new police chief in December. Chief Christopher Young retired from the force in November to take a job in the private sector. Deputy Police Chief Joel Neal has been serving as interim chief since Young’s retirement.

Also in Rockland, a controversial Habitat for Humanity project on Talbot Avenue continued to move forward.

The project of 13 residences would be developed over three years. Six houses will be managed by the Knox County Homeless Coalition, while the other seven will be under the purview of Mid-Coast Habitat for Humanity.

Engineers Wright-Pierce are currently working on an independent review of the project’s stormwater management plan, at the cost of Habitat for Humanity.

Opponents of the project cited wildlife and drainage concerns, and started a campaign called “Save Firefly Field.”

Supporters of the project said it will address a serious shortage of affordable housing in the area, as well as a growing homelessness problem.

The Rockland Planning Board will conduct a second site visit at the end of December, and will review the project at their Jan. 18 meeting.