One on One with…Michael Davis — Leader of 250th Bridgton birthday bash driven by passion for history

PASSIONATE ABOUT HISTORY — Michael Davis became a Bridgton Historical Society trustee at the age of 13, and at 21, he is the assistant executive director. He also has taken the role as point man for the Bridgton 250 Celebration. (Rivet Photos)

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

Michael Davis was worried.

The clocking was ticking and little planning had been done to prepare for Bridgton’s 250th anniversary.

“At first, the town wanted to take care of it. They tried to form an Events Committee, but no one volunteered,” said Davis, who is Bridgton Historical Society’s Board of Trustees vice president. “With it being a year out and nothing happening, I started pestering people if I could be of assistance.”

He was the perfect point person.

Highly-energetic and passionate about history, Davis spearheaded the birthday bash planning, which will be unveiled this Saturday (see accompanying schedule). He teamed up with five to six local business people, such as Carrye Castleman-Ross, owner of Depot Street Tap House, to “blend ideas together” and develop a full day of festivities, including unsealing a time capsule from 1968, which had been tucked away in town office archives, located in the complex’s basement. It includes a special letter written to a child, who will be in attendance for its reading.

Selectmen created the 250th Committee with Davis as chairman, along with Castleman-Ross, Carolyn Grimm and Ursula Flaherty.

Davis has left no rock unturned. He secured a proclamation from Governor Lepage to mark the occasion, which will possibly be read by State Representative Phyllis Ginzler.

He has gone door-to-door, leaving pamphlets regarding the big Bash.

He has spoken to local groups and organizations.

BHS LEADERS, Ned Allen, executive director (right) and his assistant, Michael Davis, with a portrait of Enoch Perley, who was the first settler of Bridgton.
25oth Celebration, Saturday, July 7
• 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tours of the Bridgton Historical Society and Rufus Porter Museum
• Morning boat parade on Highland Lake
• 11 a.m. Settler’s landing reenactment at Highland Lake Beach
• 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Food trucks, live music, historic displays at Bridgton Community Center
• Noon, March to Community Center for 250th celebration events, including:
Noon, reading of an official proclamation from Maine Governor Paul Lepage
1 p.m. Commemorative speeches and poem presentations
1:30 p.m., Opening of the 1968 Bridgton time capsule, long thought lost!
1:30 p.m., Sealing of new 2018 capsule, bring a (one-page) Bridgton memory to be included!
Bridgton’s 250th memorabilia and public homemade cake competition (to register, e-mail name and a cake title, if desired, to bridgtonscakes@yahoo.com; cakes should be delivered to the Bridgton Community Center by 11 a.m.; a random drawing will determine the 20 contestants; judging categories will be “best taste” and “best look”; first place prize Vintage Souls basket, Firefly Boutique $15 gift certificate; second prize two tickets to The Hayloft at Dragonfly Barn and Historical Society commemorative pin and poster; third place $10 gift certificate to Depot Street Tap House; judging will occur from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., winner announced at 2:30 p.m.)
Dusk, Special birthday fireworks at elementary school
Other scheduled happenings
Sunday, July 15, Sebago-Long Lake Music Festival Chamber music concert, by Bridgton Historical Society
Saturday, July 28, Second Annual Traditional Arts Day at Narramissic Farm in South Bridgton
Also, check out BHS’s new summer exhibit, “From Wilderness to Maine,” alongside a series of historic presentations by Tom Hubka, Jo Radner, Chris Closs, Mike Davis and many more!

And, he has waited his turn at selectmen’s meeting for a chance to provide municipal officials with updates.

“This was too important not to do something we can be proud of,” said Davis, who is a mechanical engineering major at the University of Southern Maine. “At first, we thought it would be a success if we had 100 people come. From what I am hearing, it sounds like it could be thousands. The more the merrier.”

At first, there was talk about including the anniversary on the Fourth, but organizers saw an opportunity to keep Bridgton “alive” by placing the Bash a few days later.

At a time when there is divisiveness nationally, Davis sees Saturday as a chance to return to Bridgton’s past, when people stood together and could accomplish any task at hand.

“History is not just about the past, it’s lessons to be learned,” said Davis, who developed a deep fascination with days gone by as a young teen. He cited how the Historical Society recently published an article in The News outlining the history of hotels in Bridgton, as town planners hear a proposal for a 68-room facility.

At age 13, he became a BHS trustee. He had volunteered at the Historical Society as part of a National Junior Honor Society community service requirement. BHS members liked his perspective and interest, and extended the invite.

His involvement steadily grew. At age 16, he became vice president of the Trustees. In the spirit of “doing whatever to help out,” he has made pies for receptions, developed exhibits, tracked down memorabilia and spent hours researching to provide museum visitors with accurate accounts accompany pieces of the past.

At age 20, Michael Davis became BHS assistant director, working under longtime executive director, Ned Allen.

“I feel an obligation that what I tell people about an exhibit is factual. I’ve been to museums and know that some of the things said were inaccurate. I won’t put up an exhibit unless I know the history. If I don’t know something, I’ll find the answers,” said Davis, showing off yellowing front pages of six Bridgton newspapers — including the Knickerbocker, the Drugist, Weekly News, the Reporter, and The News, which make up one of several displays at the museum. “I enjoy telling Bridgton’s story, and I want to present that history in a dynamic way.”

He speaks with confidence and enthusiasm.

He is precise and full of energy.

“I don’t drink coffee or soda. I don’t know where my energy comes from, it’s all natural,” he said with a grin. “I’ve always been comfortable speaking to people.”

Allen said Mike injected excitement into the BHS’ ranks, as well as a different perspective.

While fellow young people seem fixated on “what’s trending” on their cell phones, Davis either is immersed in reading the history of Bridgton (966 pages), or giving lectures to elementary school students, who were fascinated by a typewriter, or chasing down an artifact, like Captain Kimball’s ledger of property surveyed as Bridgton was being settled, which was found on top of a barn’s rafter.

“By creating these exhibits and putting on a 250th Birthday Bash, I get to show why Bridgton is a special place,” Davis said.

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