WATERVILLE — The Taste of Waterville on Wednesday will include more than the usual food, fine dining, live music, dancing and children’s activities. This year also will feature an art exhibit in Castonguay Square.

Organizers of the 23rd annual event decided to incorporate local artists into the mix because the annual Intown Arts Festival was discontinued this year, creating a void for artists who want to showcase their works.

“We’re happy to welcome them and we have VIP dining on Common Street next to them,” said Taste organizer Christian Savage, the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce program director. “That whole area is going to be a little more elegant than other parts of the event. We’re hoping that this generates some momentum and provides some venues where artists can display their work.”

The art will be on display 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Several local artists are scheduled to show their works, but there is room for a few more, Savage said.

The Taste, held downtown from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., is presented by the chamber and sponsored by area businesses, hospitals and Colby College. It draws up to 10,000 people from all over central Maine and beyond.

“It’s great to be one of the largest family festivals in the state, now in its 23rd year,” Savage said Wednesday. “It started as an elegant, sit-down dinner, and we’ve changed the events. It’s a full family event — food, family, fun. People can come down for an hour and grab a bite, or they can come down for the day. There’s something for everyone.”

The crowds grow every year, Savage said.

“We’re starting to see a reach to the Bangor Area, Lewiston, Auburn and even Portland,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is bring people up and give them a taste of what we offer.”

Appleton Street will close at 6 a.m. Wednesday. The Bite starts at 11 a.m. on Appleton Street, where people can get single food items or a full meal. Savage said offerings will include lobster rolls from Spectrum Generations, pizza from Cappza’s, hot dogs and steak bombs from Bolley’s Fine Franks and cotton candy from the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter. Live bands will perform from noon to 4 p.m. The Bite, which provides tables and chairs for diners, closes at 10 p.m.

“It’s a nice array,” Savage said. “I think we’re up two or three vendors from last year. Appleton Street will be packed with vendors.”

Business vendors will be on The Concourse from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Main, Temple and Silver streets will close at 2 p.m., with Main Street being shut down from Post Office Square to the former Levine’s building, Savage said.

Restaurants including Amici’s Cucina, Holy Cannoli, Mei Dream, Mainely Brews Restaurant and Brewhouse, the Last Unicorn, Sam’s Italian Restaurant and Pete’s Pig Southern Barbeque will feature food on Main Street from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., as will Inland Hospital, MaineGeneral Medical Center and Oak Grove Center.

The Heritage House Restaurant’s VIP dining on Common Street is an elegant sit-down, four-course dinner for up to 100 people, with linen and fine china in a setting decorated with flowers, plants, shrubs and trees. Sunset Greenhouses and Waterville Florist will do the decorating.

Dance and gymnastics studios will perform at 5:30 p.m. on Main Street in front of Selah Tea.

A beer garden will be open 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. on the Concourse, just north of KeyBank. Admission is free and identifications will be checked. Three bands will perform at the garden: at 5 p.m., Mike Reny; 6 p.m., Sharon Hood & Dixon Road; and 8:30 p.m., Sparks The Rescue.

“It’s a young band out of southern Maine and they have a huge following,” Savage said of Rescue. “They play nationwide and come back in the summers.”

From 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., live bands will perform on Main Street at the corner of The Center and Castonguay Square. The Downeast Brass Quintet will play 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Children’s events will be 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on the Concourse near Day’s Jewelers and KeyBank. A petting zoo, pony rides, bounce house, tiger slide, face painting and a play area hosted by the Alfond Youth Center will be featured.

A caterpillar character from the book “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” will wander through the crowd throughout the day.

Special events will include Amici’s Cucina’s 7:30 p.m. meatball contest on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant, which last year drew 300 or 400 people, Savage said. Loyal Biscuit Co. will feature paw painting and Empower: Body & Pole Fitness will have demonstrations. Waterville Public Library will host a book sale and Common Street Arts will open a new exhibit from the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture.

“It’s the city’s largest event,” Savage said of The Taste. “Our goal is to really highlight our area’s cultural offerings, and we think the Taste does a good job in that it gets people downtown to see the downtown businesses and revitalization efforts going on. It’s wonderful to see thousands of people downtown for the day.”

Businesses will be open and some, including Jorgensen’s Cafe, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, will stay open in the evening.

Outdoor dining on Silver Street will be featured throughout the day and Silver Street Tavern will have a small beer garden with live entertainment, according to Savage. Free parking for The Taste is offered at Head of Falls off Front Street, he said.

Again this year, Sustain Mid Maine Coalition volunteers will help with composting at The Taste.

“In past years, we have collected approximately 800 pounds of materials,” coalition coordinator Linda Woods said. “This year we will be sending this material to Agri-Energy in Exeter.”

Savage said plates and bowls for The Taste are provided by Huhtamaki and are composted afterward.

“The only things that are not recycled are bones, wooden skewers and plastic,” he said.

The Taste’s full schedule of events is listed at www.tasteofwaterville.com.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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