It might seem that after 30-plus years, the Old Port Festival would run itself.

If only that were true.

In fact, the annual festival — set for a week from today — continues to be a lot of work for the organization that presents it year after year, Portland’s Downtown District. There are ever-evolving details to attend to, bands to hire, activities to organize.

“We’re always trying to find things to keep it fresh,” said Elise Loschiavo, who helps plan the festival. “Lately, we’ve really tried to promote the local angle more and more. We’re trying to get more local vendors, more local artists, and I would say 90 percent of the music being played is by local bands.”

About 40,000 people attend the free festival. It takes place throughout the Old Port, with a half-dozen stages and other activities focused in the area bounded by Federal and Commercial streets and Temple and Pearl streets.

Activities start at 11 a.m. with a parade led by Shoestring Theater, a community-based puppet theater in Portland, and continue through 5 p.m.

More than 90 Maine artists will show and sell their art and crafts down on the lower end of Market Street. There will be a 25-foot rock-climbing wall on upper Market Street, a children’s area at Post Office Park and pony rides throughout.

But mostly, the festival is about the music. The PDD has hired about 30 bands to perform on a half-dozen stages throughout the day. In that context, the Old Port Festival provides one of the best opportunities for people to get an idea of the depth and quality of the local music scene, Loschiavo said.

The 98.9 WCLZ stage near Fore and Pearl streets has an interesting lineup, with Don Campbell, Gypsy Tailwind, Zach Jones, Jason Spooner and Fanfarlo.

The Maine Academy of Modern Music stage has the most variety, with bands that play music ranging from pop and rock to punk and hardcore. Low Flying Airplanes, a folk-rock band that won the academy’s Rock Off competition, will perform from 2 to 2:30 p.m.

There’s also a stage for country music, sponsored by WPOR, and a stage for Irish music, hosted by Bull Feeney’s. The Sebago Brewing Co. stage has bluegrass, classic rock and a headlining set by Jacob Augustine and his band.

The Q-97.9 stage, at Middle and Temple streets, boasts most of the national acts: Agnes, the Maine, Tommy Page, Charice, Shontell and Cartel will perform, but the highlight may well be a national act with a local accent: Spose, a rapper from southern Maine who just signed a national record deal on the strength of his regional hit, “I’m Awesome.”

The idea is to bring in enough activities and music to appeal to a lot of folks, Loschiavo said. It’s not rocket science, but it does require an effort to keep the festival fresh.

“I think, honestly, the biggest reason the festival has done well over the years is that it’s a great way to kick off summer,” she said. “That’s really what it’s about, and that’s sort of its tradition. Everyone looks forward to it. It’s a nice way to reintroduce people to Portland.”

 

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

[email protected]