Old Port Festival to cap Portland's 'Summer Kickoff'

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PORTLAND — The Ferris wheel will return, but the weekend events that climax with the June 12 Old Port Festival will have a new theme this year.

On Monday, City Councilors approved the festival permit for the 43rd annual festival, scheduled to run from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. throughout the Old Port.

It is the only portion of the “Summer Kickoff” weekend requiring a festival permit, but Portland Downtown Executive Director Casey Gilbert said events that have been added to the weekend in the last two years remain on the schedule.

“All of the same elements remain, except for a reduced concert schedule,” Gilbert said April 21.

Portland Downtown, formerly called the Portland Downtown District, is the festival sponsor.

The new theme for the weekend was created in part for clarity, Gilbert said. In past years, some people expected the street closures occurring with the actual Old Port Festival were also in effect the day before.

“Summer Kickoff gives the feel of understanding what the weekend is about,” Gilbert said. “On Saturday, downtown is business as usual.”

The Ferris wheel will return to the parking lot outside DiMillo’s restaurant on Commercial Street. Gilbert said rides will be offered June 11 and 12, and possibly June 10.

“Walk the Working Waterfront” will be held for the third year, Gilbert said, running from 11 a.m.- 3 p.m. June 11.

“It really offers a private glimpse into the waterfront,” Gilbert said as she thanked business owners on the Commercial Street wharves for inviting visitors. In all, 12 wharves can be explored from the Maine State Pier to Becky’s Diner.

“Shop for a Cause,” a staple of Portland Downtown’s winter holiday celebrations, was added to the Summer Kickoff, expanding a buy-local effort begun last year to include fundraising for nonprofit Portland Trails.

“We want people to come downtown and walk around and experience things and know they are giving back,” Gilbert said.

Last year, the weekend was accompanied by four shows at the Maine State Pier, promoted by Waterfront Concerts.

This year, singer-songwriter Jackson Browne will play a June 9 concert at the Maine State Pier, and the the California-based reggae band Rebelution will headline a June 12 show.

The festival itself on Sunday, June 12, will begin with an 11 a.m. parade down Exchange Street from Federal to Fore streets, led by puppets from Shoestring Theater.

Live music will be played on stages from Monument Square to Fore Street, as vendors provide Maine-made arts and crafts and local vendors provide food. There will also be children’s activities.

The festival will require Sunday street closures from 6 a.m.-6 p.m.: Exchange Street from Congress to Fore streets, Market and Silver streets from Congress to Commercial streets, Federal Street from Temple to Pearl streets, Middle Street from Temple to Pearl streets, Fore Street from Union to Pearl streets, Newbury Street from Pearl to Market streets, and all of Wharf, Dana, Moulton and Milk streets, and Federal Street Extension.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

The “Summer Kickoff” weekend June 11 and 12, capped by the 43rd annual Old Port Festival, will include the Ferris wheel on Commercial Street.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.