Lori Austill greets visitors to her kiosk at the annual Art in the Park in South Portland’s Mill Creek Park in 2017. The 40th annual show is Saturday, Aug. 10. Ben McCanna / Portland Press Herald

SOUTH PORTLAND — Maine’s largest juried, outdoor art show is celebrating its 40th year on Saturday, even though volunteers are harder to find and some familiar artists are finding it more challenging to attend.

Mary Perry, who is the city manager’s executive assistant and serves as co-chairwoman of Art in the Park, said half of the show’s 14 volunteers are city employees and the other half are their relatives.

“When I first started 28 years ago, there were over 50 people volunteering, but now everyone is starting to age out,” she said. “It gets harder if you don’t have enough people to stay on top of things.”

Michele Howard, an administrative assistant in the city manager’s office, agreed. She said the volunteer response has been shrinking over the years.

Howard said she hopes at least 10 more people will sign up to help out Saturday, to guide artists and patrons, and assist with children’s activities. But the “show will go on” regardless, she added.

Art in the Park is scheduled to feature more than 170 artists and crafters at Mill Creek Park from 9 a.m.- 4 p.m. According to Perry, over the years there has been a 50 percent turnover in participating artists.

“Many of our long-term artists who are older find it difficult to get here,” she said. “Seeing them all the time, you almost develop a family relationship with them, so we’re sad to see them go.”

City resident Gregory Deprez, 78, who has been participating in the event for almost 20 years, said organizers of the local show make careful preparations and are helpful assisting artists with what they need.

After his wife died in 2001, Deprez said, he found it difficult to attend as many shows as he used to. This year, however, his son will help him set up his booth, making it a little easier.

“I still like to hike and walk and participate as much as I can,” he said. “My wife encouraged me to participate all those years ago, so I’ll keep going. I think you work harder at the things you enjoy.”

Irene Duplissis, who is 80 and lives in Auburn, said it breaks her heart knowing she’ll soon have to stop showing her work publicly because she loves meeting new artists and people at the South Portland event each year.

“We stopped for several years because my husband had heart surgery,” she said. “Now he’s feeling better, but he doesn’t have energy to help like before, so it’s hard.”

Regardless of age, however, Perry said the passion of the artists is what keeps the event alive and well.

“I think we still do a good job with it,” she said. “I’m not surprised it’s going 40 years strong. It’s a great event and I’m proud to be a part of it.”

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