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Kennebunkport Dump Parade

Kennebunkport Dump Parade
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Before being phased out in the mid-80s, the Kennebunkport Dump Parade was one of New England’s most unusual celebrations.

Fisherman
Photo/Art by John Nompleggi
Trash. We all have it, and we all create it. We spend our lives trying to get rid of it. There’s nothing dignified or elegant about trash. But if you were in Kennebunkport, Maine during the summers of the 60s through the early 80s, trash not only brought people together, it was celebrated with the annual Dump Parade.

I was a child of the 70s who grew up in Kennebunk during simpler times with even simpler pleasures. And the Kennebunk-Kennebunkport area was known not only for its historical value and charm, but it had what makes a town appealing: its people.

White-Barn-Inn
Photo/Art by John Nompleggi

 

A brainchild of the Kennebunkport Dump Association and its founder, Ed Mayo, a local artist and true town character, the Dump Parade was launched in 1965 as a tongue-in-cheek way to celebrate environmental awareness. Mayo, who died in 1989, was the KDA’s president who also owned a local art gallery. Mayo and the Association’s members believed that trash belonged in the dump and not on the streets. In 1967, the KDA’s efforts were honored for its efforts by the Keep America Beautiful organization. One of KDA’s mottoes was, “Our smell is swell!”

Dump-Credit-Card
Photo/Art by Kennebunkport Dump Association
Back then, those weekly trips to the dump were a way for locals to meet up and talk politics, gossip, chew the fat with their neighbors, and pick through piles of trash for “treasures” to bring home. The Dump Association even had their own “credit card” of sorts to enable the holder “visiting privileges.” The card was complete with the Association’s logo, a flower growing from an old tin can.

Pillsbury-Plumbing
Photo/Art by John Nompleggi
So the idea of the Kennebunkport “dump” parade came about organically, rising from the heaps of garbage that united so many people. Void of all ego, the many organizers and participants would put on a spectacular show for locals and tourists that made the Tournament of Roses Parade look garish and pompous. Local businesses would create outlandish floats with their own themes, bestrewn in tin cans, rotted fruit, fish heads, and all manner of debris. Nunan’s Lobster Hut, the White Barn Inn, and Pillsbury Plumbing (now Garrett Pillsbury) were among roughly 30 participants, businesses that created parade floats which carried employees and owners who engaged the crowds with enthusiasm that was not only good advertising, but enormous fun!

Dumpus-Maximus
Photo/Art by John Nompleggi

 

“I remember the mass of humanity for such a small town. Togas and dead fish everywhere,” my cousin, Thomas Gallagher, who was 12 years old at the time, recalls. That was in 1982 and NBC’s “Real People” came to film the Parade. The town went nuts! Most of the floats had signs welcoming the NBC crew, and parade goers were looking everywhere for the cameras.

The highlight of the Parade was the crowning of “Miss Dumpy.” Teenagers from Kennebunk High School and college students working in Kennebunkport for the summer would dress in outrageous costumes and flaunt their garbage with glorious pride. These young ladies, adorned with an array of filth, sashayed for the judges and onlookers with poise and pungency unlike any Miss America contestant ever dared. One was crowned Miss Dumpy, but they were all fashionable, trashionable winners in everyone’s eyes.

Jayne Bergeron was a Miss Dumpy runner-up in 1982.

Photo/Art by Fay Adjutant Crooks
Jayne Bergeron was a Miss Dumpy runner-up in 1982.

Jayne Bergeron, who was a Miss Dumpy runner-up in 1982 and now lives in North Carolina, recalls the event as “something I still look back on and laugh about.” Bergeron was photographed by National Geographic Magazine for a 1983 article titled “The Fascinating World of Trash.” Her costume consisted of paper-mache seagulls for a hat, plastic six-pack rings as a boa, fish netting, and grapefruit halves as a bra.

“My dad pulled the photo out just last year during my 50th birthday party,” Bergeron said. “My southern teacher colleagues and church friends were pretty shocked! It’s not easy to explain the Dump Parade or Miss Dumpy.”

The first Miss Dumpy, crowned in 1966, Hazel Wildes, dressed as Boss Hogg from The Dukes of Hazzard.

Photo/Art by John Nompleggi
The first Miss Dumpy, crowned in 1966, Hazel Wildes, dressed as Boss Hogg from The Dukes of Hazzard.

The Kennebunkport Dump Parade was phased out in the mid-80s, discontinued for several reasons, including liability issues. The Parade was brought back for a one-time event in 2003 for the town’s 350th anniversary celebration.

Scotty Falconer, one of the past members of the Kennebunkport Dump Association, introduces a Miss Dumpy contestant.

Photo/Art by Sharon Lichter Cummins
Scotty Falconer, one of the past members of the Kennebunkport Dump Association, introduces a Miss Dumpy contestant.

The days of the Kenebunkport Dump Parade are long gone now. But if you find yourself in the Kennebunks, ask around. You might hear some crazy stories from local – or not so local – characters who participated in the festivities. Who knows? You might even meet a former Miss Dumpy.

A 1972 Miss Dumpy contestant dons a stack of pancakes as a beret, a bread bag cape, an egg carton boa, and a sausage link belt.

Photo/Art by Eileen Stokes
A 1972 Miss Dumpy contestant dons a stack of pancakes as a beret, a bread bag cape, an egg carton boa, and a sausage link belt.

A 2003 Miss Dumpy contestant.

Photo/Art by Sharon Lichter Cummins
A 2003 Miss Dumpy contestant.

 

Please Note: This article was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

Brigid Sadorf

Author:

Brigid Sadorf

Biography:

Brigid Sadorf was raised in Kennebunk, Maine, which she credits for her passion for the outdoors and writing. After traveling the country for years, she settled in New Jersey to be closer to her family and where she worked to earn her degree in Literature and Writing from the Richard Stockton College.
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9 Responses to Kennebunkport Dump Parade

  1. Marie August 7, 2014 at 8:26 pm #

    Of joy! What memories of fun and play we had as magic was created! Love the pictures and flood of memories. What a tapestry of fun!

  2. Mary August 7, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    A
    great article about a great event! One of the highlights of the summer in Kennebunkport Maine!

  3. Louise McCormack August 7, 2014 at 10:28 pm #

    A great story. Brings back fond memories of the Kennebunk we all knew and loved. Sadorf i is an excellent writer, and a loyal Kennebunker.

  4. Earl Smith August 7, 2014 at 11:17 pm #

    Great article, I grew up in Kennebunkport with the Dumpy Parade and now every November I watch a Golf Cart Parade in Palm Desert. I would gladly watch the Dumpy Parade over the golf carts!

  5. Tim August 8, 2014 at 4:50 pm #

    I’m crushed to learn the dump parade is no more. I visited K-port every summer as a kid.

  6. Lori Burbank Darnell August 9, 2014 at 12:00 pm #

    I was a former runner up for Miss Dumpy in 1978 and represented Dockside Restaurant back when it was owned by Barbara Lucey. I dressed up like the bionic tin woman and had the owners grandson act out as my hobo son who kept popping out of a garbage can in a wheelbarro throwing cans and I would go pick them up and tell him we needed them for money…. as we paraded around the Shuamut Inn Pool. I was on channel 4 Boston news… thats how BIG it was….The next day in the parade we rode in a convertable. I still have my Miss Dumpy sash and my medal…. How great a way for us to clean up the town and have fun doing it. I really wish they would bring it back…We had lots of fun and so…many people attended. It is something I will cherrish growing up in Kennebunk/Kennebunkport.

  7. Michelle August 9, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

    I grew up going to the dump parade… Always wanted to be Miss Dumpy.. But I was too young, and then they stopped doing it… Still makes me sad.. But what GREAT memories!

  8. Heidi August 10, 2014 at 4:06 pm #

    I loved the Dump Parade! My dad was a commercial fisherman in the area and we would sit around and dream up ideas for when I could enter the Miss Dumpy Contest. Unfortunately by the time I was old enough they announced it’s final Parade. I remember being so sad… Still am. It was a time for families to have good simple fun without spending lots of money. it taught the children how to be creative with items that would normally be thrown out. Those were the days,..

  9. ED CONNOLLY August 14, 2014 at 6:19 pm #

    IT WAS GREAT, I MISS IT

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