WATERVILLE — The Taste of Waterville draws thousands from around the state to the city’s small downtown, but because streets are closed and parking reduced during the event, it can also be a challenge.

Organizers are again stressing that downtown employees park at Head of Falls to ease the parking crunch from the event, which begins at 11 a.m. Wednesday and ends at 11 p.m.

“Certainly getting people downtown for the Taste is always a challenge,” said Christian Savage, programming director for the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce, which hosts the event. The chamber emailed a letter to downtown businesses Monday encouraging employees to park at Head of Falls, which is east of Front Street, about a quarter-mile from the Concourse, the downtown’s main parking area, and the same distance from most downtown businesses.

The Taste of Waterville annual food and entertainment festival draws between 5,000 and 10,000 people to downtown. Many area streets, including a large section of Main Street and the Concourse, which has a through-street snaking through it, will be closed to traffic to make way for vendors, pedestrians and the beer tent, which has live music.

Much of the Concourse, which normally has about 700 parking spaces, and some nearby streets are closed to parking beginning at 5 a.m. Wednesday.

“We are aware of the fact that an influx of 5,000 people downtown is going to create some havoc,” Savage said.

While there were no major problems with parking last year, Savage said, the letter to downtown businesses stresses issues related to employees parking in the Concourse on Taste day.

The letter points out that while there is “plenty of alternative parking at Head of Falls” for employees, “in recent years most downtown employees have not parked (there) and the Concourse is full before the Taste begins.”

“We hope this year will be different, and Taste attendees will be able to easily park in the Concourse during the afternoon festivities.”

Savage said Monday that “we want to create open spaces for customers to come in and hopefully not disrupt normal business too much.”

Employees at downtown businesses said Monday that while they were anticipating lots of customers on Wednesday and were busy preparing for the Taste, they were not overly concerned about parking.

The chamber suggests that vehicles be removed by midnight from the parts of Main Street, Common Street and Appleton Street and the portion of the Concourse that will be blocked off starting at 5 a.m. Wednesday.

Appleton Street, at the north of the Concourse, will be closed to traffic at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday. Main Street and some side streets will be closed to traffic between Elm Street and Silver Street starting at 2 p.m.

“I really don’t know what to expect, but I’m hoping it will bring a lot of new business,” said Chelsie Herrin, store manager at The Loyal Biscuit Co. Last year the store was not open in time for the Taste, although employees were setting up the store.

“It does get congested, but last year it worked fine for us,” Herrin said. “We were able to walk the street, talk with people and meet their dogs. It was a good way to meet new people in the community.”

“It does bring in a lot of business,” said Candace Savinelli, owner of Holy Cannoli, a bakery also on Main Street. Holy Cannoli is one of 10 vendors that will be offering restaurant menus on Main Street Wednesday. Another 11 vendors will be set up on Appleton Street, many of whom will offer more casual fare like hot dogs, cotton candy and fries.

Last year Holy Cannoli sold about 3,500 cannolis, Savinelli said. “We’ve been working non-stop the last two weeks to get ready for this,” she said.

“We have a statewide draw for the Taste now, and it’s good to get out-of-towners to look at, say, Common Street Arts’ gallery or the outdoor dining on Silver Street or Day’s Jewelers,” Savage said. “Our downtown has a lot to offer, so hopefully we can bring some awareness of that to diners on Wednesday.”

Many businesses are willing to overlook the changes to parking and traffic flow for the day.

“People just have to not be lazy and walk,” said Greta Joseph, an employee at The Framemakers on Main Street. “It’s no big deal.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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