On one of the last rare sweltering evenings of the summer, performers, patrons and adoring neighbors gathered at the annual Allagash Victor Ale Tasting benefit for St. Lawrence Arts on Munjoy Hill in Portland.
As the sounds of live music spilled out of the historic landmark high atop Portland’s East End and revelers queued up for Victor Ale on tap, Deirdre Nice, executive and artistic director of St. Lawrence Arts, took a moment to give thanks for the outpouring of support.
“It’s become a labor of love,” explained Nice of her 20 years working on behalf of the arts center. “I had no idea it would take this long to rehab the building, but everything has its time. We are a successful, small nonprofit operating through every up and down in the economy, and every year we finish in the black.”
Guests eagerly converged on the Allagash bar, which became the social hub of the festivities. Caitlin Cameron, an urban designer in the planning office for the city of Portland was joined by colleague Bruce Hyman, the city’s bicycle and pedestrian coordinator.
Jennifer Doyle of Portland, who recently relocated here from Los Angeles with Mike Medina, chatted with John Paul of the Portland Phoenix.
Asa Korsen, who works for Coffee By Design, raised a glass with Dan Flynn, who is part of the warehouse crew at Allagash and Jen Jutras of Portland. Alan Spear, co-owner of Coffee By Design, was also about.
As folks savored the Tribute Ale that Allagash brews specifically to benefit St. Lawrence Arts, Nice explained what a critical gift this has come to be.
“I met Rob bowling for kidneys about eight years ago, and I talked with him about St. Lawrence,” she said, referring to her first meeting with Rob Tod, the founder of Allagash Brewing Company. “Six months later he called me up and said he was brewing a signature brew for us. We receive one dollar for every bottle sold. The first year it raised $2,500 for us and it has increased every year. It is incredibly generous.”
“We’ve been doing this for nearly 20 years,” explained Tod of his company Allagash. “We love being part of this community. For the first 12 years of our business, we didn’t have the resources to give back. Now that we are able to give back, everyone at the brewery is so proud of that.”
As the music of Some Guy’s Band simmered down, the intimate crowd took their seats to give their full attention to Nice as she welcomed Tod and thanked Allagash for its support over the years. The brewer responded in kind by presenting a check to St. Lawrence Arts in the amount of $12,000.
The audience roared with appreciation and excitement as Nice accepted the gift.
“This comes to us every year with no strings attached,” she said incredulously, clearly moved by Allagash’s offering. “We are deeply appreciative. This is huge for us!”
With that, the audience was treated to a special performance by Vivid Motion, a nonprofit Portland dance company. It was followed by an open mic as guests continued to mix and mingle, some even getting up to perform. The sense of community and place permeated the evening.
“I absolutely love this place,” said board member Peter Bass, smiling. He was joined by Julia Kirby, director of development at St. Lawrence Arts. “It’s so nice to have an arts organization that puts on this kind of programming all the time. You’ve just got to support it.”
Glenn Morin, board treasurer, who watched the performances from the sidelines with his pal Kevin Piccone of Portland, was elated by Allagash’s gift.
“It’s wonderful,” he said. “It will go a long way to helping us out. Rob is one of our best supporters.”
Surveying the crowd, perhaps Piccone summed it up best.
“This is people who believe in this community and want to make it happen,” he said. “It’s community helping community.”
Margaret Logan can be contacted at: