PORTLAND – Kyle Green doesn’t need a calendar to let him know that a new season has begun on Peaks Island.

All he has to do is see the vendors and local groups setting up for PeaksFest and he knows that summer is under way.

“It kind of starts off everything,” said Green, his three children waiting impatiently to get to the games, face-painting and other events.

PeaksFest’s ninth edition began Friday night, kicked into high gear Saturday and wraps up today, an islandwide collection of tours, demonstrations, concerts and other fun that marks the start of a new season and, unofficially, the return of dozens of summer families to the Casco Bay island.

But it’s largely unnoticed outside the island, and that suits Green just fine.

“It’s cool because it’s an island and everyone knows everyone and it’s not like that in Philadelphia,” where Green grew up.

PeaksFest initially focused on events that nonprofit groups on the island could use to raise money, and this is the first year that craftspeople have been asked to set up tables and make sales, too.

The Peaks Island Tax Assistance and Energy Assistance organization has long used the event to raise some money to help islanders pay their tax bills or heat their homes, said Jane Gerard, a member of the group.

Gerard said her little children’s fishing game — a pole with a magnet on the end of a string and dozens of plastic fish with metal inside bobbing in a kiddie pool — doesn’t rake in big money, but every little bit helps keep islanders in their homes.

“We’ve got people on the island that can’t afford it,” she said, “and they’ve lived here all their lives.”

Gerard said her group, which was also raffling off a golf cart, is set up to help year-round Peaks Islanders, since summer residents aren’t on the island for heating season and most own two homes, suggesting that taxes aren’t a big stretch.

She said there isn’t a big divide between summer residents and year-round islanders, noting that “most of us were summer people at one time.”

But, Gerard adds, “Do we celebrate when they go home? Yes.”

Gerard notes that most island businesses depend on summer people, many of whom began arriving Saturday, with schools letting out across New England last week.

Eager to welcome them back were people like Ron Sinicki, who owns Down Front Ice Cream, just a short walk up the hill from the ferry landing.

Despite the warm spring, Sinicki said it’s been a slow start to the season on Peaks Island, probably due to poor timing on the weather front — the sunny days have come mostly during the week, while a few weekends have been rainy.

“May was so beautiful, but we didn’t have any people here,” he said.

Sinicki said business is down a bit from last year — his worst year ever, due to the economy and terrible early summer weather — but it’s hard to make a good assessment of the season until the summer people come back.

So PeaksFest is something he looks forward to because it brings islanders off the beaches, out of their homes, down near the ferry landing and into his shop.

“The business is what is it is,” he said. “You can’t do an advertising campaign and hope to draw a lot of drive-bys.” 

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

[email protected]