WATERVILLE — Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce is hoping to follow on last summer’s success of pop rocker Eddie Money performing at the annual, daylong food and entertainment festival Taste of Greater Waterville.

Organizers this year hope to keep the crowds coming with a band that gained national attention over the past two decades — Rustic Overtones.

This time the tickets are free and the band will have two opening acts. Chamber officials also are adding a third event to this year’s Taste — fine dining dinner under the stars.

“The crowds have grown over the years and what we’d like to do is ensure that crowd keeps growing,” Chamber program assistant Christian Savage said Monday. “We want to have a good statewide appeal with our headline entertainment. They’ll draw a certain crowd that might not typically come to the Taste.”

Rustic Overtones, the seven-piece, Portland-based band with the funky horns, indie rock appeal and rambunctious stage presence, fits the bill, he said.

Chamber second vice-president Jeff Corey, owner of Day’s Jewelers and chairman of the Taste committee, said organizers also have agreed to return elegant dining to the Taste this year, with a reserved area for tables on Common Street, printed menus and advance ticket sales.

“We’re going to keep the Bite — booths that are open throughout the day — and we’re going to keep the a la cart menu,” Corey said. “But this year we’re adding a third venue — no plastic, no paper; it’s going to be cloth napkins, tablecloths with glass, silverware, all very nicely done.”

Corey and Savage said last year’s event with Eddie Money as the headliner was done to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Mid-Maine Chamber and the 20th anniversary of the Taste. Savage said 800 people purchased the $25 tickets for seats and 2,000 more paid the $5 for standing room. Another 1,000 people stood outside the fenced-in area in the downtown parking area known as the Concourse listening to the music. In all, he said, 7,000 to10,000 people showed up for the daylong Taste and Bite events.

Bringing in Rustic Overtones this year will keep the high-visibility entertainment, but within the budget of the nonprofit chamber and without having to sell tickets, they said.

“Rustic Overtones is an extremely popular band in the state of Maine and they appeal to a wide range of age groups, and that’s what we were looking for,” Corey said. “We wanted to avoid targeting a specific age group, and we felt Rustic Overtones crosses those age boundaries. They’re very, very popular.”

The Taste of Greater Waterville is a daylong event featuring food vendors, street dancing, live music, children’s events and a beer garden for those 21 or older. It began 21 years ago as a group effort by local restaurants. In its early days, organizers would close down Main Street in the evening, set up tables and chairs in the street and serve food.

The event grew so large, so quickly that the chamber took it over, because of its resources. From there, it turned into an all-day event.

The Taste this year is set for Aug. 7. Rustic Overtones are scheduled to perform 9-10:15 p.m. on the performance stage in the beer tent. Opening for them will be two other bands with local appeal — Tricky Britches and The 220s.

Corey said the chamber is preparing to launch a Web portal in the coming days to publicize the Taste as one of the city’s most attended outdoor events. The website, www.tasteofwaterville.com, will have all the information about the Taste, he said.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367
[email protected]