South Portland eyes July Fourth waterfront activities, Knightville street festival

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SOUTH PORTLAND — Although summer may still seem like a distant mirage, plans are already underway in the Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Department for two new seasonal special events.

One would provide entertainment for the thousands of people and families who gather to watch Fourth of July fireworks at the city’s waterfront, while the other would capitalize on the long-running popularity of Art in the Park.

Last week, city councilors approved closing part of Madison Street for Fourth of July activities that city officials hope to hold for the first time this year at Bug Light Park.

Every year, people come out in droves to watch Portland’s fireworks from the park, but the city has never coordinated anything in the area. This year, city officials expect anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 people to attend. 

Details are still sketchy, but the approved street closure application states that the city will provide entertainment, children’s performances, music, backyard games and food vendors at the park from 4 p.m.-8:30 p.m. before the Friday night fireworks. 

In addition to engaging what is likely the largest audience South Portland attracts annually, recreation coordinator Lisa Thompson said she hopes the city can provide a family-friendly, “controlled activity” that discourages “uncontrolled” activities that can dampen peoples’ Independence Day spirit. 

Because of heavy boat traffic on that day, vehicle access to the city boat launch will be an exception to the street closure.

The city is also in the early planning stages of a potential Knightville extension of the annual Art in the Park in August. 

After the success of the Luminary Walk at Winterfest in February, where Knightville businesses stayed open late and promoted special sales or activities, the city is considering doing something similar in the evening after Art in the Park wraps up at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 9. 

If approved, the event would be separate from Art in the Park, but would hope to take advantage of the foot traffic generated by the 35th annual art show in Mill Creek Park. 

Although she emphasized that plans for the event are still vague and in the “brainstorming process,” Thompson said any activity would “only enhance what (Art in the Park) does.” 

If approved by the Parks Department, plans for such an event would have to go before the City Council. 

Shelby Carignan can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or Follow her on Twitter: @shelbycarignan.