Thousands of people enjoy the annual LanternFest in South Berwick each August or the Home for the Holidays celebration along South Berwick’s Maine Street in December. Over the years, many have also enjoyed the community-run Powderhouse Ski hill or joined in indulging in locally made soups at the November Keep South Berwick warm fundraiser.
These events and many others are all organized through the SoBo Central community non-profit organization, which is entirely run and managed by citizen volunteers.
The local non-profit was created in 2009, but its history goes back to 1999 when a group of women held an art sale in a rural barn in the Tatnic area. In 2005, when the art sale moved to Town Hall, a group of citizens and a local store owner were inspired to start Home for the Holidays, and open up Main Street stores and businesses for a night of celebration. The goal was to support the downtown business district and to celebrate the holidays as a community.
Home for the holidays, with the Women’s Holiday Art Sale as its anchor, offered everything from cookie and ornament-making to dreidel games, caroling, and a visit with Santa.
After a few years, a group of people involved in both Home for the Holidays and issues related to protecting the downtown’s economy and character began looking into creating a more formal organization. This group, which called itself Smart Growth South Berwick, met with leaders of other local non-profit efforts, including Hot Summer Nights, The Food Pantry, the Fuel Fund, and the Powderhouse Hill ski club. Together they came up with the name SoBo Central and created a 501c3 community non-profit as an umbrella group providing insurance and fiscal oversight for these groups.
The mission is to bring together citizens dedicated to a healthy, vibrant town, which means healthy environmentally, socially, and economically. Since 2009 other programs have been added, including Sobo Cares to help needy families at Christmas and the Tuskegee/South Berwick Sister City project. Its signature project is the LanternFest, which takes place at Spring Hill and brings families together for music, a parade of lanterns, fireworks, and a beautiful display of light on Knights Pond.
We would like to thank Amy Miller for contributing to this written piece as well as the entire Board of Directors of SoBo Central for their tireless efforts toward the continuing social and economic sustainability of South Berwick. For more information about SoBo Central, to volunteer or donate, please email Kara Plank or SoBo Central's website or Facebook Page.