This year’s expanded Old Port Festival will include a full day designed to let people explore the city’s working waterfront.
Eleven wharves stretching from the Maine State Pier to Becky’s Diner, many privately owned, will be open to the public as part of a walking tour on Saturday, June 7. People will be invited to peek in at fish and lobster-processing plants, try on a diving suit at a dive shop, and watch boats being maintained or repaired.
The waterfront tour is among the changes announced Monday for the Old Port Festival, scheduled for June 6-8. Last month, organizers said they would expand the event from one day to three, with Friday featuring a bigger version of the city’s First Friday Art Walk and Sunday featuring activities that traditionally have been part of the festival, including music and food.
Saturday will be a day to explore the “real Portland,” Steve Hewins, executive director of Portland’s Downtown District, said Monday during a press conference in the parking lot of DiMillo’s restaurant on Commercial Street.
“The waterfront is a part of the city that a lot of people walk right past, but has so much to offer,” Hewins said.
Another change announced Monday was the installation of a 90-foot gondola wheel ride, like a Ferris wheel, operating on the waterfront near DiMillo’s all three days of the festival. Most festival events are free but the gondola and other rides will not be. The Circus Conservatory of America, which is opening a school in Portland, will put on performances in Monument Square Friday and at various locations Saturday.
Organizers expanded the festival, which is in its 41st year, to try to make it more of a destination event and to celebrate more of what Portland offers. Plus, they said, the one-day event had become so crowded it was causing some people to stay away.
“The expansion is a great opportunity to draw more guests for hotels and just more people in general,” said Gerard Kiladjian, a downtown district board member who works for New Castle Hotels and Resorts, operator of the Westin Portland Harborview on High Street. “This event, over three days, and with a focus on Portland’s arts and Portland’s waterfront, will cast a much wider net.”
The festival’s aim is to bring people to the Old Port and showcase the area’s offerings. It is organized by Portland’s Downtown District, a nonprofit merchants group.
The Old Port Festival weekend will start on June 6 with the art walk, when part of Congress Street will be closed to vehicles to make room for artists, performers, craftspeople and vendors. Art galleries, museums and shops all along the route will be open for browsing.
“To have Portland’s arts district and art walk included in this way is really important,” said Jennifer Hutchins, executive director of Creative Portland, the group that runs the monthly art walks.
On Saturday, people will be alerted to various waterfront happenings and open houses by orange balloons. There will also be a scavenger hunt at local shops, with prizes.
Sunday will feature the traditional Old Port Festival happenings, including six stages of musical performances, a parade, vendors and other activities.
For more information, go to Portlandmaine.com.
Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: