Kennebunkport businesses and residents are banding together to save the 2018 Kennebunkport Festival, which was abruptly canceled last week by its former sponsor, Maine Media Collective, after allegations of sexual harassment were raised against the company’s owner and former publisher, Kevin Thomas.

Kevin Thomas, former publisher of Maine Magazine, in 2016 Margaret Logan photo

More than 40 community members representing restaurants, business owners, hoteliers, homeowners and sponsors voted unanimously Tuesday evening to move forward with the festival, which is designed to raise money for charitable foundations, partly by hosting meals prepared by prominent chefs in exclusive Kennebunkport homes.

The announcement that the festival would be held June 4-10 was made Wednesday in a prepared statement by Emily McConnell, the festival’s new director.

“Overwhelmingly, the community believes passionately in the potential of the festival as a positive force in the Kennebunks and will do everything possible to make it a success,” McConnell said in the statement. “With events just a month away, we are committed to moving quickly to put the right infrastructure in place for scheduling, ticketing and permitting, but ask for a bit of patience as we do so.”

Last week a former employee of Maine Media Collective, Jessica Lacey, accused Thomas of sexual harassment in 2010 and described a difficult work environment in which she alleged she was bullied repeatedly. After several chefs and other sponsors then withdrew from the festival, the company announced Monday it was being canceled.

Maine Media Collective is the parent company of Maine Magazine, Maine Home + Design and several other glossy magazines. The collective’s current CEO and publisher, Andrea King, said in a previous prepared statement that the environment at the company has changed dramatically in the eight years since the incident described by Lacey occurred, and that the company does not tolerate such working conditions.

Thomas issued an apology Tuesday and said he is seeking to sell his interest in the company.

“I regret the events of that evening at Top of the East and feel horrible about her experiences at work in the months afterwards. I take personal responsibility for the lines that were crossed,” Thomas said in the statement.

McConnell advised people who purchased tickets before the change in event management to seek a full refund from Maine Magazine and then repurchase tickets through individual event hosts or through the new website, thekennebunkportfestival.com, when they become available.

McConnell said Wednesday that the website, which is still under development, will eventually contain events and ticket pricing.

She anticipates that each festival event will support one or more local nonprofit programs, including the Kennebunk High School art program and local food pantries.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]