KENNEBUNK – After a two-year hiatus, the May Day Festival – Kennebunk’s celebration of spring — has returned.

Centered downtown this year, the festival takes place on the first Saturday of the fifth month of the year, just as it has – excepting the pandemic – since its inception in 1998. This year, the May Day Festival is on May 7.

The May Day Festival returns to downtown Kennebunk on Saturday, May 7. Dan King photo

Kennebunk Parks and Recreation Events Director Linda Johnson said she thinks the community is more than ready to celebrate spring, after COVID-19 and its uncertainties shelved the popular day-long festival in 2020 and 2021.

“My phone has not stopped ringing since January,” with folks inquiring if May Day Festival would be on, Johnson said.

For those looking for a hot meal to start the day, there is a pancake breakfast at Duffy’s Tavern and Grill from 8 to 10 a.m., so patrons can fuel up before taking in a host of other events – from making a May basket at the Brick Store Museum, checking out the book sale and Faerie Festival at Kennebunk Free Library, or taking in what the crafters and nonprofit groups at Waterhouse Center have to offer.

And there is a lot more.


A kids’ fitness course, chalk on the walk, lobster toss, and make-your-own ribbon sticks is set for the Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Arundel Chamber of Commerce on Water Street and bounce dance dome and 70-foot obstacle course at Rotary Park.

It is also a good time to check out the Kennebunk Farmer’s Market – the first day of the new season. The market will be open 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Garden Street parking lot.

And there is a big, big parade starting at 1:30 p.m. – right where parades are supposed to be in small towns – on Main Street.

Johnson recalled the first May Day Festival in 1998.

“It had been a long winter,” she said. She was a member of the Downtown Committee and was working for the York County Coast Star at the time and so got chatting with downtown merchants. The town needed to get perked up, and so the event began. The May Day Festival started in a small way, with a raffle, and merchants decorating their doors, she recalled.

The first May Day parade lasted 20 minutes, Johnson estimated and included school children, excited to ride their bicycles in the parade, with playing cards in the spokes to make noise.


“It started small, and it grew and grew,” said Johnson.

The festival is made possible through the generosity of donors. There was fundraising to host the May Day Festival from its inception – and that continues today.

The town participates in-kind – the municipality is not asked to contribute cash, said Johnson – but provides assistance through  the efforts of those in public works, parks and recreation, police, fire departments, and others.

“We get a lot of support from the town,” said Johnson.

The parade promises to be epic – and will feature the Dunlap Highland Band, an array of Kennebunk Little League teams, the Gym Dandies (think unicycles), antique cars, Shriners, mascots, and many more – including floats – the latter, said Johnson, not seen for at least a decade.

Johnson provided some historical notes: In 2005, May Day was rained out; in 2008, it poured but most events went on. There was a big chill in the air in 2017, but the event went on … and then came the pandemic.


She is looking forward  the 2022 festival.

“I like the camaraderie in the town,” said Johnson of the May Day Festival. She said she hears from those who were little on the first May Day, who tell her “I had a bike in the parade,” and now are back, to enjoy the festivities as an adult.

“Seeing these kids grow up … it’s a whole evolution of a downtown event and a small town,” said Johnson.

“My favorite part of May Day is people-watching, from grandparents enjoying their grandkids in the parade to a child enjoying a tasty treat,” said parks and recreation director Tasha Pinkham. “There’s something for everyone.”

Johnson said she is grateful to be working on May Day Festival, and, with a nod to the pandemic, said organizers are making sure safety is kept in mind.

Pinkham said she is grateful for the simple joy of being around others.

“May Day provides us the opportunity to see friends and neighbors we missed,” she said.

And, she said, she is grateful for Johnson, who devotes untold hours to the event.

“We are thankful for Linda Johnson and her time, knowledge and love for the town and its people,” Pinkham said.

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