Celebrate Lee Founders Day Weekend

Three-day festival adds more food, drink and merriment

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LEE — Visitors can expect more food, drink and merriment at Lee Founders Weekend.

Organizers of this year's downtown festival have added a beer and wine tent with live music and a hamburger cook-off during Friday's Taste of Lee.

An old-fashioned church supper, followed by the Jack Waldheim Band in concert, both at the First Congregational Church, will bolster the dawn-to-dusk Saturday line-up, according to Lee Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Colleen Henry.

"We've added more live music because it adds to the thrill of a street festival," she said.

The three-day celebration, held this Friday through Sunday, pays tribute to the town's past and present and how it's moving forward.

"The theme of this weekend is Lee's history as a mill town," Henry said.

Organizers are in the midst of a decade-long preparation of Founders Weekend celebrating the town's 250th anniversary in 2027 by focusing on local history during the Hometown Parade, the CreativeLEE exhibit at the Lee Library and the tour of the town cemetery on Thursday.

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The Taste of Lee continues to anchor the Friday events, when staff from restaurants throughout town line the sidewalks along Main Street and serve up their specialties or dishes made just for the occasion. Children's activities, street artisans, crafters and community organizations selling food and goods will be mixed in among the restaurant offerings. Main Street, from Academy Street to Park Street, will be closed to motor vehicle traffic to provide a pedestrian-friendly, event from 5 to 8 p.m.

Foodies get an extra treat on Friday with the debut of the Friendly Burger Cook-Off, co-sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Lee and Henry's Electric. Firefighters from Lee and five surrounding fire companies will compete at flipping and serving the best hamburgers in town. The beer and wine tent will be alongside the burger competition in the church park next to Lee Memorial Town Hall. Owner of 51 Park restaurant and tavern, Rob Trask is the brainchild behind the libations and live music.

"Back in the mid 2000s, we used to have an Octoberfest celebration behind the restaurant on Founders Weekend with bands and a beer tent. It was always a great time," he said.

Friday evening is capped off by the third year of fireworks that has helped keep Taste of Lee busy the entire three-hours.

"You definitely see Main Street full. There's no doubt about it, people stay as the fireworks are an attraction" said Lee Founders Committee Chairman Joseph Furgal.

Saturday remains the action-packed portion of the weekend with plenty of activity from just after sunrise to late evening.

The day opens with a 5K race starting at Lee Middle and High School and wraps up with the Jack Waldheim Band returning to the First Congregational Church, where the musical group performed three years ago.

Saturday's marquee event is the hour-long Hometown Parade, this year paying homage to Lee's history as a mill town. Parade grand marshal Donald Zukowski will represent Onyx Specialty Papers — the town's last operating paper mill that's been locally owned for 10 years. Zukowksi is a 36-year veteran of Lee's mills. He is currently the operations support manager at Onyx located in the historic Hurlbut Mill on Route 102 leader in the papermaking industry.


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