Portland's Old Port Festival grows to 3 days, adds art walk, rides

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PORTLAND — Once the celebration of a neighborhood rebound near the city waterfront, the 41st annual Old Port Festival will cut a wide swath through and above the peninsula for three days next month.

Up in the sky, a 90-foot gondola ride patterned after the London Eye will tower over the parking lot outside DiMillo’s throughout the June 6-8 festival.

“When we realized what space constraints were, we knew we could only get one ride in there,” Will Etheridge, communications director for Portland’s Downtown District, said Monday after a press conference outlining the expanded festival.

PDD has organized the festival for about 20 years.

Etheridge said PDD Executive Director Steve Hewins began thinking about a bigger festival to draw more attention to the city and peninsula this year after the PDD and Creative Portland merged efforts for the First Friday Art Walk last December.

The June 6 art walk includes closing a portion of Congress Street from 6-8 p.m., and will feature two Monument Square performances by the Circus Conservatory of America, now based at Thompson’s Point.

Students from the Circus Conservatory will also perform in Lincoln Park and on area streets on June 7.

While it was a natural choice to add the art walk to the festival, Etheridge said a waterfront tour sponsored by business advocates Growing Portland on June 7 was also a good fit.

The self-guided tour runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will allow visitors to see portions of the city that frequently go undiscovered, Etheridge said. At the same time, a scavenger hunt will be held, starting at Key Bank in Monument Square. The winner will get skybox tickets to a Portland Sea Dogs game at Hadlock Field.

On June 8, the festivities will begin at 11 a.m. with the traditional parade down Exchange Street. At noon, live music will be performed on six stages throughout the Old Port. More than 100 local artists will showcase and sell their work, while the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine will host music, arts and crafts for children at Post Office Park on Middle Street.

A 25-foot rock wall for climbers of all ages will be set up on Federal Street, while rides for children will be a few blocks away on the same street.

“The Sunday festival that has been such a fun event, basically we’ve kept it the same,” Etheridge said.

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.