Booths and people fill Water Street in downtown Gardiner during the 2021 Swine & Stein Brewfest. The annual fundraiser for Gardiner Main Street that showcases local beers and pork-based grub returns Saturday. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

GARDINER — When the gates open Saturday on Water Street, those attending Swine & Stein Brewfest will be able to enjoy a wide range of beers, wines, spirits, music and games, and attendees can get an early look at one of Gardiner’s pocket parks that’s been newly improved.

For more than a decade, Swine & Stein has drawn people from around central Maine and New England to Gardiner’s historic downtown to celebrate the season with an Oktoberfest-style event that showcases local beers and pork-based grub via food trucks and local restaurants.

“We have more brewers than ever,” Melissa Lindley, executive director of Gardiner Main Street, said Monday, noting that this year’s offerings also include hard cider, mead, spirits and wine. “There are people who are not beer drinkers that might appreciate variety, and there are people who are curious and might want to try everything.”

The event also features games, like Pass the Pig and Large Jenga, courtesy of wooden blocks provided by Barn Boards & More; the Maine State Rock, Paper, Scissors Contest; the Frozen T-Shirt contest, in which contenders race to be the first to thaw frozen T-shirts enough to put them on; and the Beard and Mustache Competition, which returns for its ninth year.

Gardiner Main Street has collaborated with the Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center to line up bands to perform Saturday on the stage that will for the first time be set up at the west end of the festival, outside the U.S. Post Office. The bands are Juke Joint Devils, Random Ideas and Boneheads.

The stage will be near McKay Park, which has been undergoing improvements that have been in the works for about two years.


Tracey Desjardins, director of economic development at the city of Gardiner, said the work is expected to be completed by the end of the week on the pocket park that links Water Street with the Arcade parking lot and access to Cobbosseecontee Stream.

“I’m waiting for the last finishing touches — tables and chairs, railings and fencing,” Desjardins said Monday. “The goal is to have them ready for Swine & Stein.”

The park project, paid for via Community Development Block Grant and American Rescue Plan Act funds and an in-kind donation by the Gardiner Public Works Department, was intended to create outdoor seating for restaurants lacking that during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as to improve access and safety in the park by adding lighting and fixing the stairs.

John Flagg serves up smoked pork belly chunks during last year’s Swine & Stein Brewfest festivities in downtown Gardiner. The annual fundraiser for Gardiner Main Street that showcases local beers and pork-based grub returns Saturday. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

“People are just happy; they love it. It really is a celebration,” Lindley said. “You are right on the street and you can check out the businesses and the buildings.”

She said the third-largest market for tickets is the Boston area, noting that many people make Swine & Stein part of their Maine travel plans for the long holiday weekend at the peak of foliage season.

Ticket sales, which started in August, have been strong. Lindley said VIP tickets, which grant early entrance, are sold out online but are still available for $45 each at Goldfinch Creamery, the Gardiner Co-op, Monkitree, the Blind Pig, the Table Bar, the Depot and Bateau Brewing.


General admission tickets are available from the local retailers for $35, online for $40 and on Saturday will be $45. Tickets for designated drivers are $10, and those ticket holders get water and soda for free.

“Last year was our best attendance at over 1,200,” Lindley said. “Looking at (ticket sales) last year and where we are now, it’s looking the same.”

The event got its start in 2009 and is the primary fundraiser supporting Gardiner Main Street.

It’s held rain or shine and even in a pandemic. In 2020, with public health restrictions in place due to COVID-19, Gardiner Main Street shifted to a Brewfest in a Bag format. The first 300 people to sign up were able to take home a bag filled with locally made beers and other festive items for $75 a bag.

Lindley said the event is still looking for volunteers to sign up.

Volunteers get free admission to the event, and for $5 they are able to upgrade their ticket to try some beers, Lindley said.

To sign up as a volunteer, visit

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