The Old Port Festival offers so much to see, hear, do and eat, it might leave you wondering where to start.
You could just wander the streets when the festival opens at 11 a.m. Sunday, but that might be a little overwhelming considering the six stages for live music, kiddie rides, dance performances, live science experiments, food vendors, a rock climbing wall and a giant Ferris wheel called the Casco Bay Eye. If you have kids, it helps to go in with a plan. Let us help:
Location: Federal and Exchange streets, 11 a.m.
Why Go: Puppets of all shapes and sizes are the focal point of this one-of-a-kind parade, which kicks off the festival at 11 a.m. The puppets are made by Shoestring Theater of Portland and range from the glorious Our Lady of the Old Port sitting atop a two-story-high horse puppet made of lumber and paper mache to easy-to-carry backpack puppets. There are usually about 30 puppets in all, including puppets on sticks and puppets with long, flowing gowns. There are also drummers and a stilt-walker or two. Shoestring Director Nance Parker says about 60 volunteers are needed to make these puppets move down Exchange Street, including some strong folks for the heavier puppets. She’s inviting people who want to be part of the parade, including children, to gather at 10 a.m. Sunday at Federal Spice on Federal Street.
Location: Post Office Park, Exchange and Middle streets, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Why Go: The Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine hosts a free kids’ activities area at Post Office Park. The big attractions are big building blocks. These blue foam blocks from Imagination Playground are bigger than some kids and are best used by kids with big imaginations. Families can take a picture of their block creations and submit them to a contest on line at imaginationplayground.com, for a chance to win prizes, including a trip to New York City. The Post Office Park area also will offer sidewalk chalk drawing and crown-making.
Location: Federal and Exchange streets, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Why Go: Kids of all ages can climb the 24-foot-high mobile rock wall, from Evo Rock & Fitness in Portland, with a very cool feature. The line used for climbing has an automatic descend mode. So when a climber gets to the top, they simply let go and the line automatically lowers them slowly to the bottom. The price is $5 for two climbs. Nearby will be two “extreme air jumpers,” made up of flexible poles and a seat-belt harness, plus a trampoline. Once you are strapped in, you bounce on the trampoline while attached to the poles. People have been known to get as high as 25 feet. The price is $8 for three minutes.
Location: Post Office Park, noon
Why Go: This 45-minute free show by Mad Science of Maine is a high-energy mix of science and action. The presenter, Lightning Lucy, will talk about chemical reactions and other pieces of science, then demonstrate with a series of sloppy experiments. Foam might come splashing out of a container one minute, smoke oozing out of bottle the next. There will be plenty of chances for children in the audience to volunteer to help, and goggles will be provided. For more information, visit maine.madscience.org
Location: Post Office Park, 2 p.m.
Why Go: Never pass up a free juggling show if kids are on hand. Matiss Duhon’s juggling implements range from balls and clubs to rubber chickens and random items borrowed from the audience. He also balances things on his face and sometimes does some “danger juggling” including with a knife and a carrot. Let the dicing begin! See a video of Duhon in action: matissduhon.com.