Portland council OKs music festival on Eastern Prom

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PORTLAND — Live music in a day-long show is likely to return to the Eastern Promenade next August after city councilors on Monday gave the go-ahead to hammer out details with promoters.

By a unanimous vote, with Councilors Jill Duson and John Coyne absent, the City Council instructed acting City Manager Sheila Hill-Christian to move forward in talks with representatives of Townsquare Media for a music festival expected to last from 1-10 p.m.

Details including festival acts, ticket prices and how much the city will earn from ticket sales and be reimbursed for providing services need to be determined. Hill-Christian and Andy Downs, city director of public assembly facilities, said no contract will be signed until the city approves the festival performers.

The show would mark the first festival on the Eastern Promenade, aside from annual Fourth of July celebrations, since the Aug. 4, 2012, “Gentlemen of the Road” show headlined by British folk-rockers Mumford & Sons.

The August 2015 festival is expected to be half the size of the 2012 show, drawing between 6,000 and 8,000 fans. The proposed plan was also unanimously endorsed by the Friends of the Eastern Promenade, Executive Director Diane Davison said.

The proposed permit seeks use of two-thirds of the park and would require shutting off traffic up Munjoy Hill from Washington Avenue beginning at 10 a.m. the day of the show. The Eastern Prom and some surrounding streets will be closed at 6 a.m. the day of the show.

Davison and Downs said prior experience will be a factor in setting up the logistics of the show, including residential access to neighborhood streets that will close on the morning of the show, where to place portable toilets, and how to work around the closure of the boat landing near East End Beach.

“We know where the land mines are, we know where there is room for improvement,” Davison said, while also asking that the Friends be allowed to sell bottled water to raise money at the show.

Councilors Ed Suslovic and Nick Mavodones Jr. agreed the 2012 festival was a success, but expressed concern the success might be hard to duplicate for a variety of factors.

Suslovic also pressed Townsquare Media to include local vendors.

“I think there are enough food trucks to fully meet the needs of the proposed audience we are talking about,” he said.

In other entertainment-related business, the permit application for the first Portland Winterfest was tabled until the Nov. 3 meeting.

City Corporation Counsel Danielle West-Chuhta said details were incomplete, but the initial festival information indicates it would run from Jan. 22, 2015, through Jan. 25, at several peninsula locations.

Included in plans are a giant snow tubing ramp on Market Street between Middle and Newbury streets. Festival visitors would also dance the night away Jan. 23 at Congress Square, in a unique “Silent Disco,” where the State Theater would provide headphones to participants.

Monument Square will be home to a snowman-building competition on Jan. 24, and then on Jan. 25, the Portland Pirates will invite visitors to take shots at a goalie defending an invisible goal.

Councilors also heard, but had no need to act on, a report from Police Chief Michael Sauschuck regarding citations for possession of marijuana in the 10 months since an ordinance legalizing possession of up to 2.5 ounces went into effect.

The ordinance was passed by voters Nov. 5, 2013, and went into effect a month later. Since then, Sauschuck said, 48 citations for civil violations payable by fines have been issued to 46 people, in keeping with the department’s policy to continue to enforce state laws on marijuana possession.

Sauschuck said 14 of the citations were for violations still illegal under the city ordinance, including use by minors and public use. Twelve citations came during arrests for other offenses, including three for operating under the influence.

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

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.