Carnaval Maine, an event put on by Shamrock Signature, will take place later this month on the Eastern Promenade and include a bicentennial ball, food and drinks, winter recreation and more. Courtesy / Carnaval Maine

PORTLAND — The Carnaval Winter Festival is set to take place Jan. 30 to Feb. 1 on the Eastern Promenade. The event is modeled after Carnaval de Quebec, a winter festival in Quebec City, Canada, that dates back to 1894.

The goal behind Portland’s version of Carnaval is to showcase the best of Maine during the wintertime, said Brian Corcoran, CEO of Shamrock Sports and Entertainment, the company behind the event. The event kicks off Jan. 30 with a Maine Bicentennial Snow Ball and continues with food, winter recreation, ice sculpture displays and light shows Jan. 31 and Feb. 1. Corcoran expects 10,000 people will attend the festival.

Proceeds from the event benefit WinterKids, a Westbrook-based non-profit that works to keep kids active throughout the winter.

The Carnaval is the second Portland event Shamrock Signature has produced since launching last year. In July, it put on Portland Pops, a renewed version of Portland’s Independence Day celebration on the Eastern Promenade that included fireworks and a performance by the Portland Symphony Orchestra. In June, it will present the Live + Work in Maine Open, a stop on the Professional Golfers Association’s Korn Ferry Tour, at Falmouth Country Club. Falmouth will be a stop on the tour through 2024.

While the Professional Bowlers Association and America East Women’s Basketball tours that Shamrock Sports and Entertainment brought to Portland in recent years caught the attention of many people from away, Corcoran said Shamrock Signature events like the Carnaval are designed to do that in a bigger way.

“The PGA Tour has a lot of potential and we are happy to take over the Fourth of July festivities, but I think Carnaval has the biggest opportunity for impact,” he said.

The festival, he said, will help bring people to the city.

“We’ve noticed a real significant void in the market for an event like this, especially in the wintertime,” he said.

Nearly 6.5 million people visit Maine during the winter months, resulting in about $200 million in lodging sales, according to the Maine Office of Tourism.

“Carnaval Maine will be an exciting new addition to the season,” said the office’s director, Steve Lyons.

Belinda Ray, who represents the East End and District 1 on the council, said she’s looking forward to the event “to lift people’s spirits at a dark time of year,” but she also wants to make sure it meets the vision the city has for use of its parks.

“I understand the event organizer sees this as an annual event, but from my perspective, this is a pilot year to figure out how it fits in with the community and see if it aligns with our vision of how we use the Eastern Promenade,” Roy said.

Shamrock Signature is teaming with Sunday River to hold two rail jams, a sanctioned United States Snowboard and Freestyle Ski event on Jan. 31 and the other, open to the public, on Feb. 1, when coaches from Sunday River’s SnowSports school will provide free instruction for kids.

Karolyn Castaldo, director of communications for Sunday River, said the resort is happy to be a part of the winter carnival to help showcase winter in Maine is more than just skiing.

“When we think about winter in Maine, we tend to think about skiing,” said Karolyn Castaldo, director of communications for Sunday River. “Reminding people there are lots of other ways to enjoy winter, that is a big part of what Carnaval is about.”

A specially designed igloo will host two of the festival’s special events: Bites and Brews and the Maine Bicentennial Snow Ball. Courtesy / Carnaval Maine

Shamrock is also working with the Maine tourism office to offer a Snow Ball in a specially designed “igloo” with music, craft beers and light fare on Thursday, Jan. 30 that “pays tribute to the heritage and history of the state” as it celebrates its bicentennial in 2020.

Festival goers 21 and older will be able to sample some of Maine’s finest food and beverage at the festival’s Bites and Brews events in the igloo, set for 3 to 5 p.m. and 8 to 10 p.m. Jan. 31 and Feb. 1. Beverages from six craft breweries will be paired with hors d’oeuvres prepared by local chefs.

The Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad will be providing transportation to the festival from the Ocean Gateway Terminal.

Andy Downs, the city’s director of public assembly facilities, said his department, as well as many others from the city, parks, parking, public works, police, fire, and permitting and inspections will provide services for the event.

Downs said any cost to the city will be reimbursed by Shamrock Signature.

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