Visitors to Portland’s Old Port saw a quiet Fourth of July in the time of coronavirus, with masks, outdoor shopping, and frequent reminders to keep their distance. But vendors and patrons alike said they were happy to get outside at all.

Business owners and managers in the early afternoon said foot traffic had been quiet to moderate on Saturday, though Friday in the Old Port was much busier.

“Everyone has been a really good sport,” said Kirsten Goodale, a manager at Sherman’s Books & Stationery on Exchange Street.

Goodale stood behind a table outside the store, wearing a plastic face shield. Like many others, the store had sprawled into the street, setting bookshelves where cars used to park.

“It’s been great. It’s kind of European,” Goodale said of the pedestrian-only setup. “Obviously I wish it weren’t happening because of a pandemic.”

The city of Portland canceled its annual fireworks display because of the coronavirus outbreak. The Portland Downtown business district had no events posted on its website for the Fourth, other than a few sailing excursions throughout the day.


Wharf Street, home to popular restaurants and bars, has seen increased enforcement from the city of Portland recently, after complaints about dense crowds and a lack of masks. On Saturday afternoon, the street had some visitors, but nothing like the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds in some photos of the nighttime scene that have circulated on social media.

Businesses on Wharf Street were seating patrons outside and reminding them to wear masks. Some appeared to be requiring the use of masks to enter – a mandate that Gov. Janet Mills plans to make official by executive order in the coming week.

Commercial Street saw some modest foot traffic as well. Lisa White, who sells paintings of landscapes, lighthouses and Maine harbors, said business had been slow for the past month that she’s been out in Portland. Only Friday saw much business, she said.

“They’re so cute!” a woman wearing a mask with red lobsters exclaimed, looking at White’s paintings.

“Thank you,” White said. “I like your mask.”

Still, White said, there have been out-of-state visitors, though some have been leery of saying where they’re coming from.


“I’m very happy that we’re having visitors in the Old Port,” she said. “I think they’re happy to be out and about.”

Greg Treadway, a warehouse manager from Houston, Texas, said he was glad to get outside. In Houston, he said, “it’s pretty bad.” The city opened up bars for indoor service, then saw a rash of cases.

Wearing an American-flag mask, Treadway held a small video camera on a stick as he walked down Exchange Street with his family. He records his trips for a YouTube travel channel, he said.

Nearby, Christine Little of South China and her granddaughter sat at a picnic table outside The Holy Donut.

“We didn’t really have Fourth of July plans because of what’s going on,” Little said, so “we thought we’d go to Portland and window-shop.”

Just after arriving, they got in line outside The Holy Donut, which was letting only one customer inside the store at a time. Their next stop: Mexicali Blues.

Little said she had been pleased to see so many people wearing masks downtown – though many others were not. Having Portland open for business, even halfway, was a welcome diversion from months of social distancing, she said.

“My feeling is, let’s all wear our masks and get this over with,” she said.

Related Headlines

Comments are no longer available on this story

filed under: