PORTLAND — For those who have always felt the fireworks and festive atmosphere of Independence Day celebrations just aren’t enough, that something was missing – lots and lots of ice cream, perhaps – this year’s festival should solve that.
Portland’s annual Fourth of July Stars and Stripes Spectacular for the first time will feature a charity bonanza called The Great American Ice Cream Festival.
Local ice cream purveyors, including Mt. Desert Island Ice Cream, Shain’s of Maine, and Gelato Fiasco and more will set up on Cutter Street, which runs from the Eastern Promenade down to the East End boat launch parking lot, from 3-6 p.m. Wednesday. Samples will be offered and tasters will be asked to vote for their favorite flavor; the winner will be announced before the evening’s fireworks display.
Tickets for the ice cream event will be limited to 2,000 and proceeds will benefit Share Our Strength, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting hunger, and Mercy Hospital’s Best Shot for Youth Program. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for children under 12. More information can be found at greatamericanicecreamfest.org.
Also new to this year’s festival is the location of the fireworks launching area: a barge in Casco Bay.
The move will open up the promenade’s tennis and basketball courts to the public. City officials have requested, however, that those facilities be used for their established athletic purposes, rather than for watching the fireworks.
As in the past, the celebration will also include a performance by the Portland Symphony Orchestra, scheduled to begin at 7:40 p.m. in Eastern Promenade Park and continuing through the fireworks, which will start at 9:20 p.m.
This year’s musical selections include pieces from the patriotic march-master John Philip Souza, and composer John Williams.
The Stars and Stripes Spectacular will again offer bicycle valet service at the cannon at Fort Allen Park for those who pedal to Munjoy Hill, where parking will be extremely limited.
More than 50,000 people are expected to watch the fireworks from locations across the city, from boats, and from the waterfronts in South Portland and Falmouth.
The East End boat launch and Cutter Street and its parking lots will be closed from 10 p.m. Tuesday through 6:30 a.m. Thursday. Those wishing to watch the fireworks from boats – at a required distance of 350 yards or more from the fireworks barge – will have to put in from boat launches elsewhere. Falmouth’s Town Landing, South Portland’s Bug Light boat launch, and Portland Yacht Services offer the service for a fee.
Parking restriction throughout much of the East End will take effect beginning at 11 a.m. on Wednesday. Munjoy Hill will be closed to traffic entirely starting at 4 p.m, though marked handicapped vehicles will be allowed through until 6 p.m., with some parking available on Cutter Street and Fort Allen Park.
In the event of rain, the festivities will take place on July 5. Parking bans would be extended until 11 p.m. that day if the festival is postponed.
The Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad will also offer a Fireworks Express Train from 5-9 p.m. for a reduced fare of $3, departing from the Ocean Gateway visitor center on Thames Street. The historic railroad will offer normally priced train rides along the Eastern Promenade as usual during the morning and afternoon, and special Independence Day activities for children inside the museum.
The Portland Symphony Orchestra plays as fireworks explode over Portland’s Eastern Promenade and Casco Bay on Independence Day in 2010.