PORTLAND – It was a raw day in downtown Portland for the 38th annual Old Port Festival, damp and breezy with temperatures barely climbing above 50 degrees.

Not that Megan Grumbling was grumbling about it.

Grumbling, 34, embodied one of the Shoestring Theater’s giant puppets in the small but lively parade that kicked off the carnival.

For the second time, the event — held on the first Sunday of June for 36 years — was celebrated on the second Sunday of the month. (A weather history analysis found rain more likely on the earlier date.)

“It was actually quite nice,” Grumbling said after doffing her handcrafted fabric-and-wood costume, “because it’s hot inside those puppets already. So it’s nice when it’s cool (outside) like this.”

The aroma of grilling meat wafted over the cobblestone corridors as Grumbling spoke shortly before noon. Already, streets normally clogged with cars instead welcomed strollers, both the wheeled and two-footed variety.

Music blared from a DJ higher up on Exchange Street. Soon, the entire Old Port pulsed with the beats from three outdoor music stages, with organizers of three others opting to move indoors because of the inclement weather.

Grumbling particularly enjoyed peering through gauze from the puppet’s chest to gauge how festival-goers perceived her dancing and twirling and her entreaties to join in the revelry.

“It’s fun to watch their reactions from inside the puppet,” she said, “because they’re reacting to a puppet, this mystical thing rather than a human. I like that dynamic of getting down with the crowd in an anonymous way.”

Jan Beitzer is the executive director of Portland’s Downtown District, which organizes the event. She said attendance was down about one-third from last year’s sun-kissed crowds of about 40,000. She estimated Sunday’s attendance at about 25,000.

“We’re grateful it’s not raining,” she said. “It’s spritzing. So we do see fewer people, but it’s still a huge number. The vendors seem to be making money. People are coming out. Mainers are tough. They’ll come out for a while.”

The festival offered something for everyone, from music and food, to rides and dance, to arts and crafts. A rock climbing wall and bungee trampolines enticed the adventuresome.

On one side of Fore Street you could sample chocolate-covered bacon. On the other, caffeinated beef jerky. The proprietors of fresh-squeezed lemonade mostly stood stoically with arms crossed, but the guy selling chowder seemed happy as a clam.

Five-year-old Jada Boutin sat patiently on a stool while a pink heart was painted on her left cheek, followed by a purple butterfly on her right. Pigtails bouncing, she grinned happily as her younger brother, Colby, opted against the face paint but consented to a red balloon tied with blue ribbon to his wrist.

“It’s our first time here,” said their mother, Jen Boutin, who made the trip from Turner. “Despite the weather, we wanted to come and check it out, just to see what they had for the family.”

All along Market Street stood peaked tents harboring artisan wares of pottery, jewelry, soaps, salves and lotions. There was even one offering door harps.

Yes, door harps. Think rectangular guitar with no neck and a handful of glass or wooden beads suspended by hemp cord from the bridge. Tuning pegs hold guitar strings stretched taut over a circular cavity, producing pleasing sounds when the beads are bumped.

“It’s a 300-year-old Scandinavian tradition, door harps,” said Steve Eaton of Portland.

Twenty-two years ago, when Eaton and his wife, Dede, were honeymooning in Bar Harbor, he bought a door harp kit from a store called Sounds of the Sea. Upon returning to Portland, he assembled the harp, hung it on their door and ever since has been enjoying its melodic tones.

“I just love them,” he said. “I said, ‘One of these days, I’m going to build my own.’ This winter I bought a band saw, and here I am.”

Eaton constructed 50 door harps with solid oak bodies and birch facades. One, painted purple, has a Beatles 45-rpm record affixed to its front. Another, made for the anniversary of friends, includes the Beatles vinyl record “When I’m Sixty-Four.”

“He does commissions,” said Dede Eaton, who runs a shop on Forest Avenue called The Magick Closet.

The festival lasted six hours. Grumbling, the puppeteer, didn’t stick around until the end. Even the smaller-than-usual attendance was too crowded for her tastes.

“It was an awesome turnout for the weather,” said her friend Chris Wright as he showed a visitor snapshots he had taken of Grumbling and the bohemian-style parade. “That is so fun to watch. Seriously, it’s a blast.”

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:

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