After donning snowshoes with help from L.L. Bean’s outdoor teachers, Xavier Waterston, 8, and his brother, Noah, 5, clomped around a snow track Saturday as if they were veterans at doing it.

“It was their first time snowshoeing,” said their father, Leo Waterston of South Portland, as his sons dashed away. “Hey, boys, stay close to me,” he said.

He and hundreds of others were enjoying the Carnaval ME on Portland’s Eastern Promenade. The 10-day winter celebration was first held in 2020 but was canceled last year because of  the pandemic.

“I think it’s great to have an event, to have something to do for everyone, outdoors in the middle of the winter,” Waterston said.

The recent warm weather did provide some challenges for this year’s Carnaval ME, however.

On Friday morning the temperature spiked to 54 degrees, melting and robbing snow from the hill for snowboarding and skiing.


“The show must go on!” said organizer Brian Corcoran of Shamrock Sports and Entertainment. “We lost our hillside of snow. Sunday River was prepared to blow snow, but thanks to our city friends in Portland,” truckloads  were brought in, he said.

Taking snow from big piles at Maine Mall parking lots and other spots, they hauled 60 truckloads to the Eastern Prom. Crews restored the snowy hill, allowing Sunday River’s “Rail Jam,” an exhibition of snowboarding and skiing, to take place Saturday afternoon.

The Carnaval, which began Thursday, offers a variety of food, entertainment and other activities.

There’s a heavy combination of music and theater on two stages. During the day, “there’ll be family programming from 11-4, and adult programming each evening from 5-10,” Corcoran said.

Bath Iron Works is paying a special tribute to first responders, fire, police, rescuers and the military. “They’ve got a hospitality village tent set up to thank first responders,” Corcoran said.

Not far from the snowy hill, a stage with 30 budding musicians from the Maine Academy of Modern Music filled the air with rock music on Saturday. Fans watching the bands danced to the tunes, and maybe to keep warm. Others chatted with friends enjoying a beer near fire pits.


Inside a large inflatable igloo, Maddy’s Theatre gave a “Frog and Toad” performance Saturday from the characters of the popular storybooks.

Igloo’s entertainment Saturday night was to be a band, Motor Booty Affair, and Sunday night The Don Campbell Band will perform.

Elsewhere at the festival, a small crowd watched as an artist carved a block of ice into a snowman sculpture with a chainsaw.

Collin Atkins carves an ice sculpture Saturday at Carnaval ME on the Eastern Promenade in Portland. Atkins came up from his home in Orlando, Fla., to work at the winter festival. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Among them were Jane Trivett of Portland and her nieces, Meredith Trivoni, 7, and Anne Trivoni, 10, of New Jersey.

“They want to see the ‘Rail Jam,’ the ice sculpting, the bands,” said Trivett, who was happy to be out of the house. “It’s awesome,” she said.

Cindy Millsop of Biddeford is one of the Carnaval’s volunteers. She worked inside the igloo on Saturday. Performers had just concluded the children’s theater production of the “Frog and Toad.”


“It was adorable” Millsop said of the show, adding that children were smiling and laughing as they watched from their parents’ shoulders.

Kendra and Paul Mathews of Biddeford brought their daughter, Clara, 4. “We liked it a lot. Good singing with a big toad,” Kendra said of the theater.  “It’s good to get out,” Paul said. And Kendra said their daughter loved the mythical creatures, two yetis, that roamed the festival.

Carnaval ME is considered a sister event to Carnaval de Quebec. Portland’s version continues through next weekend. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday there will be no public events because the festival will be closed for private functions those days, Corcoran said.

Public events continue on Thursday. The concluding act will be Scotty McCreery from 7-9 p.m. Feb. 27.

A total of 25,000 people are expected to turn out during the 10 days of the festival, Corcoran said.

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