After 40 years, the Kerrymen Pub in Saco has closed its doors. The pub, run for decades by the Kerry family – brothers, sisters, wives, husbands, cousins and children (in a telephone interview, proprietor John Kerry named each and every family member) – and widely considered a town institution, went out with a bang, or more specifically a party on Saturday that they billed as the Last Hurrah.

It was the sort of place that, when it announced its closing on Facebook, drew dozens of comments of the “end of an era,” “life will not be the same” sort. That Facebook announcement, by the way, was peppered with heart and shamrock emojis.

Reached on Monday, Kerry said that the Last Hurrah, and more than that the decision to close, were bittersweet.

“It was quite a run we had, for sure,” he said.

The pub, at 512 Main St., opened in 1978, its interior built from the recycled beams and old pine boards from a couple of 200-year-old Saco barns. There was a family restaurant downstairs and an upstairs lounge with live music. The menu offered beer along with pub food like burgers, buffalo wings and potato skins; a few traditional Irish dishes; and such classic Maine dishes as baked haddock, fried clam dinner and Grapenuts pudding.

Most importantly, Kerry said, the Kerrymen Pub offered a sense of community. It sponsored local sports teams of all kinds. It welcomed politicians – Olympia Snow, George Mitchell, Susan Collins, to name a few; pro athletes – a Red Sox player here, a Celtics player there; and it made the local shoe store clerk and the town doctor feel equally at home. “Our pub became a place where for 40 years people brought their joys and they brought their sorrows,” Kerry said, “and there was always someone here to celebrate or comfort them.”

Kerry will continue to operate the energy business he has long run while his wife, Linda, and daughter Meghan focused on the restaurant, but he said the pub’s time had come. Two of the brothers who opened the place with him died in recent years. And 40 years in such a 24-7, high-stress business had taken its toll. Beyond those, the competition from bars and restaurants in nearby towns had grown fiercer, and the dynamics around eating and drinking had changed.

“If I was 20 years old, like I was when we started, I would look at things differently,” Kerry said. “Emotionally, it’s not easy. Emotionally, it’s a real difficult decision. But as a business decision? It’s the right thing.”

He plans to sell the building that houses the Kerrymen Pub, as well as an adjacent building and parking lot that he owns.

One event that won’t be going anywhere is Mary’s Walk, a well-known cancer fundraiser he started in 1999 with his brother-in-law in memory of his late sister, Mary Kerry Libby. Over the years, the event, held in conjunction with the Kerrymen 5K, has raised more than $3 million to fight cancer in Maine. Kerry said he has added to the deed of his property that Mary’s Walk could continue; the walk ends behind the pub while the race starts in front of it. He’s also asking all potential buyers if they’d continue to sponsor the walk.

We chatted about the pub by telephone for about 15 minutes, and as we wrapped up, I asked the ebullient Kerry if he would like to add anything. “The Kerrymen Pub could be easily called the Kerrywomen Pub,” he answered without missing a beat. “The women are just as important as the men. We started it, but I would say they finished it to make sure it was done right.”

The interview ended. A little time passed. Kerry called back. The first time, he wanted to be sure I mentioned Schooner Fare, a Maine-based folk group (now with a national and international audience) which played for two decades at the pub. Kerry called those the “Halcyon Days, the Golden Era,” and he mentioned that he went to Cheverus with two of the band members. The second time he called to name his sons, Sean and Ryan, who spent time in the Kerrymen Pub kitchen, as well as his daughter Natasha, who, because she lives in New York hadn’t had as pivotal a role as his daughter Meghan, but still …

“For all my brothers, and myself, my wife and my children, it has been a labor of love,” Kerry said. “We wanted to serve people and give to people the love we felt and experienced in our own family life, and I think we succeeded there. If you measure success, not by material things, but by being faithful to your friends and your family and your community, I think we did that, and I think we succeeded very well.”

FESTIVAL FOR THE FOODIEST

This year’s 11th annual Harvest on the Harbor kicks off on Thursday in Portland with Different Roads, featuring dishes from around the world, cooked by Maine chefs with global outlooks (among many others, the Bouchard Family Farm from Fort Kent will be making ployes). The festival spans much of this week (it ends on Sunday) and encompasses the traditional Maine Lobster Chef of the Year competition; several cocktail events; a coffee “lab,” where you can figure out your own perfect cup; an oysterfest featuring a lot of slurping and about a dozen Maine growers; roast pig tacos!; and the annual Market on the Harbor, which will introduce marketgoers to local entrepreneurs making good things to eat and drink. Several local restaurants are also offering three-course tasting menus in conjunction with the festival (though you’ll have to hurry, as a few of those got underway yesterday). As the festival’s website puts it, “Living in the foodiest small town in America comes with big benefits.” Most of the events will be held under a festival tent at 100 West Commercial St. For details and tickets – prices range from $35 to $95, depending on the event, and a VIP package including entry to four events costs $495 – go to harvestontheharbor.com.

LET’S HEAR IT FOR THE LADIES

This Sunday, celebrate (aka eat from) some of the area’s best food trucks and carts owned by women with the Lunch Ladies of Portland event. From noon to 5 p.m., the trucks and carts will be parked and dispensing food and drink on Anderson Avenue in Portland. The event, which organizers hope will become an annual celebration, is also a fundraiser for the Maine Breast Cancer Coalition; a portion of all sales will go directly to help Maine women access breast cancer screenings and treatment, organizers say. Look for food and drink from Blue Lobster Wines, Crepe Elizabeth, Eighteen Twenty Wines, Grillin’ Brazilian, Goodfire Brewing Co., Knew Potato Caboose, Lone Pine Brewing, The Muthah Truckah, Nom Bai Street Kitchen and Suga Suga Portland.

YEARNING TO BAKE?

Baking season is coming right up, and Portland bakery Two Fat Cats has your back. It has reprised its Sunday Afternoons at the Bakery classes for this fall and winter.

The series starts with a Halloween cupcake decorating class for kids on Oct. 28 ($25 per child.) Ahead of Thanksgiving, on Nov. 11, the bakery – beloved for its pies – is offering Pie Making 101 ($50 includes the two pies you’ll take home). The following month, on Dec. 9 and 16, for adults and kids, respectively, home bakers can pick up some decorating tips for Christmas cookies ($35 per class). All classes will be held at Two Fat Cats’ South Portland location at 740 Broadway, and all classes are hands on. Participants get to take home the cupcakes, pies and cookies they make and decorate. To register or learn more, call the South Portland location at 536-7713 or e-mail [email protected]

Peggy Grodinsky can be contacted at 791-6453 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: PGrodinsky

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