WATERVILLE — Close to 10,000 people crowded downtown Wednesday for the 23rd Taste of Waterville, probably making it the best attendance record the event has seen in the last five years, according to organizers.

“Everything went very smoothly,” said Christian Savage, programming director for the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce, which hosts the event. “We had about five minutes of light rain but nothing crazy. Usually when the weather is good, it goes well.”

In addition to the usual variety of dishes from local restaurants, live music and entertainment, the Taste featured an art show in Castonguay Square for the first time this year.

“We wanted to give them that venue, and hopefully more artists will come back next year,” Savage said. “Year after year we try and change things up a little bit. Every year we try and hash out the small details, and I think we’re at a point where things are pretty easy to manage and we’re happy with how it’s going.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Judy Sherman, of Liberty, sat on the sidewalk at the Concourse with her daughter, her niece and their friend from India. They were enjoying an array of foods from vendors on Appleton Street, including plates of Greek-style french fries with feta cheese, Chinese food and a Bolley’s hot dog.

“We’re all eating something a little different,” Sherman said. “We just got here and we’ve been walking around.”

“We also hung out with the goats a little bit,” she added, pointing to the nearby petting zoo.

The Taste featured casual fare at The Bite on Appleton Street, a children’s play area and petting zoo and, later in the evening, live music and a beer garden in the Concourse. Vendors selling a la carte items marketed grilled flatbreads, cannoli, lobster, prime rib sliders and strawberry shortcakes to pedestrians on Main Street.

Staff members in both dining areas were preparing for a busy evening on Wednesday and said they expected to be busy through the end of the day.

“We’ve been very busy. Luckily I have a great group of volunteers,” said Angela DeRosby, nutrition and volunteer coordinator for Spectrum Generations, which was selling lobster rolls on Appleton Street. The group prepared 60 pounds of lobster, which was enough for about 240 rolls, DeRosby said. By early afternoon, they’d sold 125.

“We’re hoping to raise a couple thousand dollars,” DeRosby said, adding that all proceeds the group raised Wednesday go to Meals on Wheels.

About a dozen artists participated in the art exhibit in Castonguay Square.

“I’m just having a great time with the folks here,” said Jim Decker, of Richmond, who was selling watercolor paintings.

Teddi-Jann Covell, of Orono, was selling plein air paintings of Maine landscapes in a tent nearby and agreed. “I think it’s a great idea to incorporate local artists,” said Covell, who is also president of the Bangor Art Society. “I’m having a great time meeting a lot of people and that’s what it’s really all about.”

Debbie Achorn and her granddaughters, Madyson and Mikayla, were walking through the petting zoo around 1:30 p.m. carrying bright yellow and pink balloons.

“We’ve been doing everything,” said Achorn, of Waterville. “They did the slide, the bouncy house and the music and fed the animals.”

Achorn, 69, said she also planned to return to the Taste for a four-course sit-down meal served by the Heritage House Restaurant on Common Street.

“This is the first time I’ve had a chance to get to (the Taste),” Achorn said. “Every other year I’ve had to work. So far it’s a blast.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.