There will be even more events, including concerts by national acts, in the days leading up to this year’s Old Port Festival.

Old Port Weekend will expand to four days, June 11-14, and will include three evening concerts by national acts on the Maine State Pier: Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Jonny Lang on June 11, The Wailers and Rusted Root on June 12, and David Gray and Rachael Yamagata on June 13.

The 42-year-old Old Port Festival will be held on June 14, the final day of Old Port Weekend, and will remain largely unchanged. Singer-songwriter Maia Sharp, British indie rockers Scars on 45 and Australian pop duo The Veronicas are among the two dozen or so free musical performances scheduled for the festival.

Last year Old Port Festival organizers created a three-day Old Port Weekend, in an effort to draw more people who might be searching for a destination weekend event, and to allow people time to shop and browse local businesses. The event included two days of events leading up to the Old Port Festival, and drew at least 30,000 people, organizers estimated.

The addition of the Maine State Pier shows, which are ticketed events, will help draw people to the area and promote Old Port Weekend to an even wider audience this year, said Steve Hewins, executive director of Portland’s Downtown District, the merchants group that runs the festival and associated events.

Hewins said the other major change this year will be an increased focus on getting people to visit and shop in the Old Port’s businesses during the weekend. Most of that focus will be seen Saturday, when local merchants will be in their shops, offering to chat with visitors as well as offering coupons, gift certificates and give-aways. Also on Saturday, there will be a repeat of last year’s “Walk the Working Waterfront” event. For four hours, the city’s piers will be open and people can visit lobster pounds, fish processing plants and other marine-related businesses. There will also be free tours of several boats, including the city’s fireboat, a Coast Guard cutter, and the ship used by Friends of Casco Bay.

Both events Saturday are designed to let people discover the businesses that “made the Old Port what it is,” Hewins said. He said that in the past the one-day Old Port Festival had encouraged people to celebrate in the streets, but not to visit and explore inside shops, restaurants, galleries and lobster pounds.

The Old Port Festival on Sunday will feature free music and entertainment, children’s activities, about 60 food vendors, 90 artists and 80 merchants selling their wares. Admission is free.

Though the Old Port Weekend will be four days, the only events scheduled on Thursday and Friday of the weekend will be the evening concerts and rides on the Casco Bay Eye Ferris wheel, for $6, near DiMillo’s restaurant. The evening concerts were organized by Waterfront Concerts of Bangor, as part of a series of more than 20 concerts on the pier this summer. Alex Gray, president of Waterfront Concerts, said that since he was booking shows in June, it made sense for him to partner with Portland’s Downtown District, increasing exposure for both the concerts and Old Port Weekend.

 


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