When they met to plan the mixer, organizers thought they’d be lucky if they could get 20 people to show up. Instead members of the Knightville Mill Creek Neighborhood Association and the Waterfront Market Association were surprised by the turnout at the Snow Squall on Thursday night, where more than 150 residents and business owners packed the restaurant.

”Typically for Knightville Mill Creek Neighborhood Association events there are six people,” said Leah Lippmann, who chairs the organization.

”It’s the same with the Waterfront Market,” said Bob O’Brien, who’s the president of the business group. ”You never know how much you’ll get.”

But when the South Portland groups decided to join forces — as they did for the first time at this mixer — people responded in droves. Even torrential downpours and massive wind gusts, which knocked out power to a good chunk of the state, couldn’t keep people away. Of course, I’m sure the fabulous food from the Snow Squall, Verbena Cafe, Zeta Cafe, Q Street Diner and The Meat House, plus a slew of raffle prizes, had something to do with the large number of guests.

The party’s purpose was to bring together neighbors, forge new collaborations and shine a spotlight on the neighborhood’s unique character and amenities.

Residents Katie and Jim Merrow, who’ve lived in the neighborhood for 24 years, said the Thomas Knight Park is one of the area’s best-kept secrets.

”In the summertime, it’s always cool under the bridge,” Jim said of the park which sits under the Casco Bay Bridge and features a public boat launch and views of Portland’s skyline.

”It’s absolutely gorgeous,” Katie said. ”It’s a gem few people know about.”

The neighborhood is a peninsula bordered by the bridge and Broadway and includes Shaw’s, Hannaford, City Hall and Mill Creek Park.

”We love it here,” said Jack Brady, who’s lived in the neighborhood for 10 years. ”We’re on the water. I like watching the tide come in and out.”

In addition to the water views, the eateries are another neighborhood attraction.

Dennis Fogg, who owns Uncle Andy’s Diner, attended the party with his daughter Amanda Fogg and his granddaughter (and baby model) Brooklynn Head.

”A lot of people who live in the area walk over to the diner,” Dennis Fogg said.

Rob Schreiber, who lives in Ferry Village and serves on the Planning Board, said ”the big attraction is that it’s a mixed-use neighborhood. You’re within walking distance of three grocery stores.”

”It’s quiet,” said Sarah Kirn, who is the neighborhood association’s vice chair and has lived in the community for more than seven years. ”You can walk everywhere. You’re living with a low carbon footprint.”

This walkable neighborhood attracts its fair share of fascinating residents, and Alan Johnson is a great example. He’s been in Vancouver for the past two weeks watching his grandson, Anders Johnson, compete in the ski jumping events.

”It was something” to see him compete, Johnson said. ”The whole group of them did fine. They qualified for the finals.”

Like many others at the party, I wouldn’t have met him had the mixer never happened.

Attorney Michael Vaillancourt, who’s a member of the Waterfront Market Association, recalled the brainstorming session that resulted in the party.

”My answer to everything is let’s get together and have a few drinks,” Vaillancourt said.

Clearly it’s an idea local people appreciate.

The best part is that folks in this neighborhood can enjoy a few cocktails and not worry about getting behind the wheel, because as Waterfront Market Association member MaryAnn Molloy explained, ”We’re all walking home.” 

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at:

[email protected]