Arts and the great outdoors go hand in hand in this city, and summer is gearing up with art walks, farmer’s markets, festivals, train excursions and a scenic rail trail that attracts joggers, cyclists, hikers and their dogs.

First Church in Belfast, a downtown landmark, celebrates its 200th year this summer, and a full schedule of activities is in the works to mark that momentous occasion. Plans include concerts, lectures and an epic 200-foot strawberry shortcake celebration.

Looking for something fun and unusual to try? Tickets to dine in the open air on the local footbridge can be tricky to obtain, but can be won (by drawing) and are coveted.
Our Town Belfast Dinner on the Bridge tickets are so popular they are sold by lottery. Dining companions gather this year at the Armistice Footbridge for dinner June 27. To register for a chance to get a seat or two, visit ourtownbelfast.org.

The Belfast & Moosehead Lake Railroad has scheduled train rides on weekends all summer, taking passengers through scenic woods and fields toward Waldo Station. The ride takes approximately an hour, and there are specialty rides including a Pizza Train, Motor Car rides, Fall Foliage, Cider & Donuts, Pumpkin Express and a Halloween Trick or Treat ride when fall rolls around.

Regular excursions cost $15 for adults, $5 for children. For details, visit belfastandmooseheadlakerail.org.

The Belfast Rail Trail is a scenic path popular with joggers, cyclists, hikers and their dogs (keep them on a leash). Formerly part of the B&ML’s route to Burnham, it takes visitors 2.3 miles along the Passagassawaukeag River to an historic railroad museum.

The wide, well-groomed gravel path created in the old rail bed opened two summers ago. Start at the City Point Central Railroad Museum at the northern trailhead, where there are antique engines, cars, artifacts and even a caboose on display at the vintage station at 13 Oak Hill Road.

The trail is wheel-chair accessible, especially from the outer High Street parking lot, and hugs the river, with sweeping views and bridges that cross creeks along the tree-lined path. The southern point is at Pierce and Front streets. Visit traillink.com for details and a map.

Belfast is known to host some of the state’s most popular arts events and quirky summer festivals right on the water and this summer is no exception.

Dog lovers won’t want to miss Belfast’s annual Canine Games & Family Festival, sponsored by PAWS which will be held 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, June 23, at Steamboat Landing Park. This family friendly event includes an agility course, pet parade, contests, vendors, food and more. Visit PAWSadoption.org for more.

The first major event of the season takes place July 7-8 when the 23nd annual Arts in the Park returns to Heritage Park, located downtown at the water’s edge at Steamboat Landing. Admission is free.

Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., this juried show features approximately 80 fine artists and artisans who display their paintings, sculpture, pottery, jewelry and crafts, amidst live music, food vendors and more.

Organizers say this is a must-attend show each year for artists and art lovers statewide. Thousands attend each year.

The 2018 Artist of the Year is Sandy Dolan, a member of the Plein Air Painters of Maine and Katahdin Area Plein Air Painters.

“Sandy’s deep love for the great outdoors started as a child growing up in the country and continues to be the inspiration for her plein air paintings today,” organizers note. “Through her art Sandy seeks to capture the luminous light and ever-changing moods of the Maine landscape.”

For more, visit artsintheparkbelfast.org.

The annual Maine Celtic Celebration will pipe its way onto the Belfast Common with live music, good food, games and more from July 20-22, The waterfront celebration offers a full schedule of fiddling, bagpiping, step dancing and family fun.

There will be a Kilt Kontest to determine “Who wore it best.” Men, women, children and even dogs are welcome to enter and undergarments are encouraged. Contestants are judged by the audience, not a panel. The day’s events include a Celtic breed dog parade and show, singing, dancing, flutes, whistles, pipes, drums, harp and a Saturday fireworks display sponsored by the City of Belfast.

The festival will see the return of the popular Kilted Canter 5K road race, sheepdog herding demonstrations, Cheese Roll Championships and Highland Heavy Games. There also will be some Not-So-Heavy Games for the children in attendance, organizers say, like a Wellington Boot Toss.

Admission is free, as the event enjoys loyal sponsorship from local businesses. For details, visit mainecelticcelebration.com.

The annual Belfast Harbor Fest, with its National Boat Building Challenge, will be held Aug. 17-19 at Steamboat Landing and Heritage parks in Belfast. Participants build a boat in four hours on Saturday then launch it.

This festival boasts a blueberry pancake breakfast, shipyard tours, classic boat show and 5K Bug Run road race. The 18th annual Come Boating! Regatta is Saturday. A 4-mile race, it is open to all oared and paddled boats. Contestants pre-register, and harbor rows are free to the public following the event as well as Sunday.

Saturday’s festivities also include children’s activities, such as a UMaine aquaculture touch tank, face painting, bubbles, touch-a-truck and more. There is live music all day Saturday in the gazebo, followed by a barbecue that night under the big tent.

On Sunday the popular Cardboard Boat Challenge takes place. Participants create boats for fun, using cardboard, then take part in a lively parade to the landing and launch them. Judges present trophies and awards for team spirit, creativity and “most spectacular sinking” in the challenge. Sunday afternoon’s Habitat For Humanity Lobster Gala includes good food, blues on the shore, and benefits the home-building charity.
For a full schedule, visit belfastharborfest.com.

The First Church in Belfast celebrates its bicentennial this year with a slate of activities surrounding the historic event. Lectures, concerts and community gatherings are planned including a 200-Foot Strawberry Shortcake Festival on the front lawn July 7. That’s followed by Super Summer Fair on July 14, Kirkin’ o’ The Tartans service July 22, Steelin’ Thunder steel drum band concert July 29 and an Aug. 26 organ concert and lecture about the history of the 1848 George Stevens Tracker Organ. For more information, visit firstchurchinbelfast.org.

To catch a live show, The Cold Comfort Theater offers community productions at The Playhouse. On tap this summer is “The Boys Next Door” in June, as well as 4th of July music on Independence Day at Park on Main. July will bring a musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” in Wales Park, followed by a one-night performance of “Love Letters” at Bayside Theater on Aug. 29. For details and ticket information, visit coldcomforttheater.com.

The Belfast Maskers will put on “The Music Man” as its summer show, with seven performances from July 19-29. From Aug. 16-26, they will offer Mark Twain’s “Is He Dead?” For details and ticket information, visit belfastmaskers.com.

Our Town Belfast will hold its annual Auction and Gala on July 24. Touted as “a night of community, cocktails, refreshments and friendly bidding wars,” items auctioned in the past have included everything from schooner excursions to a photo with the rooftop elephant downtown at The Colonial Theatre.

Budding young artists are invited to attend a Cartooning Club at Belfast Free Library with meetings each Friday for ages 10 and up. Geared toward children and teens, graphic artist James Quigley will help participants develop drawing techniques. Visit belfastlibrary.org for more.

And speaking of the library, there is always something going on there, whether it is a knitting circle, book club, historical lecture, movie night, toddler playtime, poetry reading, writers’ group, chess club and the list continues. All library programs are free and open to the public.

Belfast “Fourth Friday” Art Walks are held the last Friday of each summer month, with fine artists, performance artists, musicians, poets and others displaying their creative talents from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Locals and summer visitors tour art galleries, sample the fare at food tastings, and walk the downtown to see what is happening in the local art scene. For more, visit belfastcreativecoalition.org.

Farmers markets are buzzing 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday at 18 Spring St. at the United Farmers Market of Maine. And from 9 a.m.-1p.m. Fridays at 256 High St. at the Waterfall Arts Building.

The Belfast Farmers Market is still going strong since 1980.Shoppers are invited to “Grab and go, or stay and picnic.” Enjoy live music, fresh cut flowers, homemade baked goods, fruits, veggies, cheeses, yogurt, jams and preserves, meats, honey, crafts and more.

Down on Northport Avenue, the city has a scenic public park with a covered picnic area used for parties and reunions, basketball and tennis courts, a ballfield, horseshoe pits, creative playground, grills, restrooms and more. Overlooking Penobscot Bay, it is well-maintained and a free way to spend a fun-filled day outdoors. Belfast also has a city pool, a skate park, a dog park and other public spaces.
For more about happenings in and around Belfast, visit belfastmaine.org

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