Is there a better way to kick off summer than with an afternoon of free music and entertainment?

Luckily, people around here don’t have to try to find out, because the 38th annual Old Port Festival is scheduled for Sunday. There will also be activities for children, the traditional parade, and lots of food and crafts.

“It’s a way to kick off summer; for people to come and enjoy the first festival of the summer,” said Sayre English, special events manager for Portland’s Downtown District, which organizes the festival. “We really have something for everyone.”

Especially in the area of music, which is always a focus of the festival. This year there are six stages of live music, with more than 30 acts ranging in genres from pop and rock to country and Irish.

Several national bands are playing on stages booked and sponsored by Portland radio stations, including WJBQ (97.9 FM), WCLZ (98.9 FM), WPOR (101.9 FM) and WMGX (93.1 FM).

“It’s a great marketing opportunity and a way to say thanks to our audience,” said Tim Moore, program director at WJBQ, known as Q97.9.

None of the bands are household names, but many have songs now being played on the stations that booked them.

Moore said often his station books newer artists, because they are especially motivated to get out in front of a live audience. Allstar Weekend, iSquare and We the Kings are among the bands on WJBQ’s stage this year. (For a list and description of bands playing the festival, see the box below this story).

Randi Kirshbaum, program director at WMGX — known as Coast 93.1 — starts booking bands by talking to record labels to see who is available. Then she tries to get a diverse mix of styles. WMGX’s stage this year will include Matt Hires, Ryan Star and The Daylights, among others.

“We’re thrilled at who we got,” said Kirshbaum.

Besides the radio station stages, the Maine Academy of Modern Music has a stage where some of the state’s top teen rock bands will perform. And Bull Feeney’s pub is sponsoring a stage where Irish music will be performed.

There will also be a children’s entertainment area in Post Office Park, where the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine is sponsoring block tower building, crown making and bubble blowing. Also in the park will be various dance demonstrations and a fencing demonstration.

There will be children’s rides and games, mostly on Federal Street, that will cost money. Food and craft vendors will be on site, and Maine crafters will be selling their work on Market Street.

The festival kicks off with a parade at 11 a.m., beginning at Exchange and Congress streets and heading down to the water. Mascots, dancers, giant puppets and stilt walkers will all be part of the action.

As for parking, at least one local garage is offering a deal: People can park in the Fore Street garage for an all-day fee of $10 by using the Union Street entrance.

The festival is being co-sponsored by several organizations, including MaineToday.com and RaisingMaine.com, both of which are owned by MaineToday Media, the parent company of The Portland Press Herald. Check out MaineToday.com‘s booth at Exchange and Middle streets for free items.

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

rrouthier@pressherald.com