PORTLAND – With two days to go, residents of Munjoy Hill and the East End can do little but wait for a neighborhood takeover Saturday by fans of the British band Mumford & Sons.
“We had a lobster bake to go to, but we’re going to stick around instead and see how it goes,” said Rhoda Freeman, 68, who lives on Morning Street with her husband, Bob. “You can always have lobster.”
The high-energy folk-rock quartet will be joined by several other acts for an afternoon and evening of music on the Eastern Promenade. The sold-out festival is expected to bring more than 15,000 people to the promenade, forcing street closures, causing traffic jams and increasing the decibel level in a largely residential area.
But most residents seem to be embracing the music festival, rather than bracing for it.
John Stuart, 57, sat Wednesday afternoon on his front porch overlooking the Eastern Prom. If he sits in the same place on Saturday, he probably will be able to see the stage.
“The way I see it, it’s got to be tamer than the Fourth of July,” he said. “I think it’s great.”
Portland’s annual July 4 fireworks draw as many as 50,000 people to the area, although for a shorter time.
Alicia Roberts, 23, lives on North Street, a few blocks from the Eastern Prom. She said she wishes she had a ticket but will try to listen from her apartment. She said such events are great for the city and local businesses.
As for the expected noise and traffic, “that’s part of living here,” Roberts said.
City Councilor Kevin Donahue, who represents the East End, doesn’t have a ticket but plans to volunteer at the event. He has heard a mix of feelings from residents since the concert was announced in March.
“The feedback I’ve gotten has ranged from celebration to resignation,” he said.
Donahue said the festival will be a sort of trial-by-fire event that could help determine whether the city continues to allow its parks to be used for private, for-profit ventures.
“Regardless of how successful this event proves to be, we’ll need to have a policy discussion,” he said. “This time around, it all happened so quickly. As a city, we had the chance to be boosters or party poopers, and we chose to be boosters.”
Residents are keeping an open mind, too.
Bob Paulette has lived in an apartment on Morning Street for the past six years. He said he expects Saturday to be hectic, but he’s looking forward to the show.
“I don’t really care about the noise,” he said. “It’s not like it’s going to go on all night.”
The concert is expected to start at 2 p.m. and end by 9. Members of Mumford & Sons have said they plan to appear at night spots elsewhere in Portland on Saturday night. That likely will keep the city flooded with visitors well into early Sunday morning.
Rebecca Minnick, 38, of Vesper Street said she’ll be out of town on Saturday for a wedding. She’s not a fan of Mumford & Sons — “I think I’m the only person I know who isn’t,” she said — but the all-day outdoor concert wouldn’t bother her.
“I grew up in a big city, so outdoor concerts seem normal,” she said. “I’m actually surprised that the city hasn’t done more of this.”
Like others, Minnick said she expects Saturday’s concert to be like Portland’s Fourth of July festivities: “It’s a madhouse for a few hours, then it’s over.”
The Friends of the Eastern Promenade held public meetings well in advance of the event to let residents know what to expect. Vice President Joe Piergrossi said many questions were asked but few people expressed strong opposition to the event.
“There are always people who are going to look negative on anything, but we really haven’t seen it,” he said.
Scott Somero, 49, who lives on Atlantic Street, said he knows only one neighbor who plans to leave town on Saturday to avoid the concert.
“I’m staying put,” he said. “I don’t mind all the people. It’s good for the city.”
Staff Writer Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at: