Wayside Grange/Theatre reaches 100-year milestone

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DEXTER — Since 1919 and through war and peace, economic depressions and booms, the Grange Hall in North Dexter has provided the community with social events. Originally housing the North Dexter Grange, and now the Wayside Grange and Theatre, this building continues to support our social, music and agricultural communities with concerts, suppers and fun times.

The Wayside Grange and Theatre is proud of its century-old hall and celebrates with another fine year of community events. We are also proud that Maine Highlands Federal Credit Union and McKusick Petroleum sponsor these events.

The 2019 concert series begins on Saturday, April 27 with the award-winning country and Americana band Brooks and Kennedy. Classic country, with Chris Fyfe and the Merle Haggard Tribute Band, takes the stage on Saturday, May 25. Fine Maine bluegrass from the Katahdin Mountain Boys is on Saturday, June 29. David Dodson and the Lowdown return on Saturday, July 27 with folk, rock and witty, original songs. The Old Blues Kats will howl on Saturday, Sept. 28. Our Variety Show, which could be anything and usually is, is on Saturday, Oct. 12. Our season finale is Old Eleven, another fine Maine bluegrass band on Saturday, Oct. 26.

Wayside Grange/Theatre Dexter

Contributed photo
A GLIMPSE INTO THE PAST — The Grange Hall in North Dexter during World War II. Notice the banner in front center with 14 stars, each star represents a Grange member in the armed services. The building was constructed 100 years ago in 1919.

All these events begin at 7 p.m. with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. Sorry no reservations — first come, first seated. Fine baked goodies and pretty good coffee are sold at intermission and there’s a 50/50 and door raffle. Tickets for the concerts are $12 and the Variety Show is $7. For more call Joe Kennedy at 277-3733 or Dave Pearson at 924-5035.

There are two suppers this season, both with live background music. Our first supper kicks off Dexter’s Maine Red Hot Dog Festival on Friday, Aug. 9 with chicken pies and all the fixings. Meatloaf is on the menu at the second supper on Saturday, Sept. 7. Tickets are $8, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. with takeout available after 6 p.m. Ingredients are all as locally sourced as possible to support our farming community. FMI call Tim Breen at 355-5507 or Carol Sherburne at 924-3381.

The history of Granges in the North Dexter building reflects the changing needs of our community.

The North Dexter Grange incorporated around 1916 into the National Order of Patrons of Husbandry. Granges were originally founded as a cooperative, national agricultural organization that equally valued both men’s and women’s work as well as their votes.

All Grange halls are designed to serve as a hub for local social and community activities. This includes a stage, large meeting hall space, a kitchen and dining area.

Times change, though, as do businesses, occupations and social needs and so the North Dexter Grange eventually folded. Ownership reverted to the Maine State Grange (MSG) and the building abandoned.

In the late 1990s, several Dexter residents rallied and tried to buy the building. Their hope was to revive it as a social and community hub by creating a theatre. But the MSG didn’t want to lose a Grange, so in 2002 a new grange (Wayside Grange #590) was created which would share space with the separately incorporated Wayside Theatre. Wayside Theatre is a 501c(3) non-profit and all theatre members are also members of the Grange.

The Wayside Grange/Theatre meets on the second Tuesday of every month at 6 p.m. at the Grange. We welcome new members and new ideas! FMI Call Grange Master Dave Pearson at 924-5035 or Steward Tim Breen at 355-5507.

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