WESTBROOK – Westbrook is ramping up activity in Riverbank Park this summer as new and familiar events will call the park home. All share the common goal of getting more people into the city’s downtown district.

New this summer is the Maine Market, a farmers and artisans market established by the Westbrook/Gorham Community Chamber, which will set up every Saturday from 8 a.m.-noon between July 12 and Aug. 30. Local restaurateur James Tranchemontagne took the lead in organizing the market, which has 18 vendors confirmed for the entire summer.

Tranchemontagne said last week that the vendors represent a mix of farmers selling vegetables and meats, and artisans selling jewelry, soap, breads and garden furniture.

He said that the market represents small businesses from all over Maine, and he’s excited for what the market can bring to the downtown. But Tranchemontagne isn’t satisfied yet, and still believes the market can be bigger and better.

“We’re still looking for photographers and painters, and more farms to jump on board,” he said, adding that the cost of being a vendor, at $10 a week, is cheaper than other neighboring markets, which charge between $30-$40.

He added that the city has been “extremely helpful in organizing and supporting the market,” citing the City Council’s decision this week to allow the Westbrook Environmental Improvement Corp. to give $2,000 to the market for advertising. Tranchemontagne said the funds will go toward street banners for Westbrook and yard signs that will be used in neighboring towns of Gorham, Buxton and Standish.

Abby Davis, who runs the Home Sweet Home bakeshop out of her home in Westbrook, said Tuesday that she signed up for the market in hopes of promoting her cupcake business.

“I first heard of the market through Facebook and immediately thought it was an excellent idea not only to promote local talent, but to bring people into our city that might normally go elsewhere,” she said. “Our city promotes that it is artist and local business-friendly on its banners, but this really shows that it’s important to our everyday living.”

Tranchemontagne said the idea behind the market “goes along the lines of changing the image of Westbrook,” adding that he believes events such as this can keep people in Westbrook instead of seeing them leave to markets in Portland and elsewhere.

Graham Mallory of Pastures of Plenty, a farm in Jackson that sells grass-fed beef and pork, said Tuesday that while he doesn’t know Westbrook very well, he is “eager to participate, because it seems like the organizers are taking the right approach to the market. They recognize that it should be a community event, a place to get together and have fun, and this attitude will ensure the success of the market and help it grow to become a central part of the local scene there.”

While Tranchemontagne is hoping to get more farms involved in the market, he said Tuesday that residents will also be able to join a newly formed community-supported-agriculture program with Broadturn Farm in Scarborough. He said $432 per share “will get you a box of delicious, fresh vegetables every week,” which can be picked up at the market.

Chris McClay, from Modern Vegan, a Westbrook business that provides vegan catering and cooking classes, said Tuesday that he signed up for the market because of his love for the community.

“I’m crazy about the community and was thrilled to help support the growth of the Westbrook economy,” he said. “We’re a close-knit community in Westbrook, and I believe that we have what it takes to bring commerce back to the downtown.”

Coinciding with the Maine Market this summer will be more opportunities for paddling on the Presumpscot River. On Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddleboards will be available to rent from Portland Paddle, which has recently partnered with the city to provide the service.

Erin Quigley of Portland Paddle said Wednesday that the group is excited to expand from its original location on the East End Beach in Portland. Quigley said that their mission is to continue the work that the city had started in providing more recreational opportunities on the river.

“We know that the city of Westbrook is working hard to promote the river and promote recreation on the river as something that’s available for Westbrook citizens,” she said. “It’s similar to what we’re trying to do in Portland, to allow people to get out on the water who otherwise might not have the opportunity.”

The City Council on Monday also approved $2,000 from the Westbrook Environmental Improvement Corp. for the purchase of three new paddleboards for this initiative.

Tranchemontagne also plans a music series at Riverbank Park during the Maine Market. In previous years he had produced concerts on Thursday nights at Saccarappa Park.

On Wednesdays, the paddling will also coincide with Westbrook’s longstanding free summer concert series, which kicks off July 2 with a performance by the Westbrook City Band. During the concerts, other activities will also be offered in the park, including laser tag with Trigger Combat Sports and a family barbecue provided by the American Legion. Each concert runs from 6-8 p.m.

Bill Baker, Westbrook’s assistant city administrator for business and community relations, has said that the heightened activity forthcoming in the park is something that the city has been working on.

Baker has also spearheaded bringing other events to Westbrook, including Tough Mudder in August, and BikeMaine 2014, which will take over Riverbank Park for a night in September.


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