Down East magazine marks its 60th birthday with a gala bash that also gives back to charities and nonprofits.

Down East magazine celebrated its 60th anniversary with a party that drew hundreds of ardent admirers, featured the work of some of our state’s most talented artists and made a point of giving back.

“This is a small token of gratitude for making us a strong Maine brand for 60 years,” said Kathleen Fleury, editor in chief of the venerable publication. “And we look forward to 60 more…”

The Art of Giving Gala, held at the Portland Company Marine Complex on Fore Street in Portland, was pulsing with energy as guests wined and dined and eagerly anticipated each moment when the live music stopped and one of six original works by artists Alex Katz, Angela Adams, Eric Hopkins, Barbara Ernst Prey, William Wegman and MECA emerging artist Renee Bouchard were given away by raffle to an event ticket holder. The magazine, in turn, donated $10,000 to each of the artist’s choice of charity or nonprofit here in Maine.

“I grew up with Down East,” said Angela Adams, who donated the Sea Fantasy tapestry from her private collection and selected The Locker Project, a community partner of the Good Shepard Food Bank, as her beneficiary. “It always featured what was going on in Maine and is how people from out of state with roots here stay connected. I’m really excited to see where the tapestry goes…”

Adams enjoyed the festivities with her mother, Ruth, of North Haven, sister-in-law Elizabeth Hamill of Falmouth and her husband, Sherwood Hamill.

Fellow artist Eric Hopkins was equally enthusiastic about the evening and his cause. He chatted nearby with cousins and North Haven EMTs Alicia and April Brown.

“I chose the EMTs on North Haven,” he said. “It’s tough and really important work that they do.”

Local food and drink flowed freely as guests danced and raised their glasses in animated cheer, saluting what Down East has meant to them over the years.

“Down East Magazine is quintessential Maine,” said Ben Alexander, founder of Maine Mead Works, who attended with his wife, Carly Cope. “When I think of Down East, I think of Maine. I was born and raised here and I’m excited to be here tonight to help them celebrate their 60th.”

Joining Ben were Nick Higgins, mead maker at Maine Mead Works, Jason Grosso, president of Pure Piping and his wife, Le Anna, marketing design manager for Down East.

Sharon Wiles of Oakland took in the party with friends Keith Birden and Allison Kuharski of Wincester Center, Connecticut.

John and Lucy Cooney of Brunswick admired how the Portland Company was transformed for the fete at hand.

“It’s great, and we love the artwork” said John, vice president of Finance and Development for Reed & Reed, Inc. “We’ve been subscribers of Down East as long as I can remember and we give it as gifts all the time. It’s a great portrayal of our state.”

“It reminds us every month what Maine really means to us,” said Eileen Frye of Portland, sharing a similar sentiment. “Kathleen Fleury makes me love Maine all over again!”

Frye was joined by Cris Tierney of Falmouth and Meg Ryan of Sarasota, Florida.

“I’m a summer resident,” explained Ryan, beaming with delight at the excitement of the evening. “We get Down East and it connects us all year round. We are really tourists. We’re not from here, but we come here, and it educates us about the rest of the state.”

Amidst all of the fun and revelry, there were enclaves tucked away where guests could escape for a few moments to lounge about and chat more privately.

“My stepfather would not have come to this party,” said Cobb Blake, stepson of Down East founder Duane Doolittle, surveying the scene from afar. “He hated social stuff, but he would have loved what they have done with the magazine.”

Cobb, who was brought up in Camden but now resides in Marin County, California, attended the celebration with family, including his brother Fred, a part-time resident of Maine.

Justin Blake, Doolittle’s grandson and a veterinarian in Lincolnville Beach, agrees.

“The nice thing about it is the Fernalds haven’t really changed its image. They’ve kept it in its original form,” he said, referring to hosts and current owners of the publication, Allen and Sally Fernald. “He would have been so proud. Its blossomed but retained its original foundation.”

The Fernald family, including their children Tom, Bob (publisher of Down East) and Melissa, were also in attendance.

Fully aware of the history before her, Fleury takes a moment to reflect.

“I am so lucky that I have this job to go to everyday,” she says. “There is so much greatness… Every day we strike a balance between staying true to our DNA and changing as Maine changes. It’s an important job to tell the stories of Maine. It’s beyond a magazine to me, it’s about the spirit of Maine and keeping that alive.”

For more information about The Art of Giving Gala (including the six beneficiaries each awarded $10,000), please visit http://www.downeast.com/.

Margaret Logan can be contacted at:

mlogan@maine.rr.com