Time is running out.
There are just six hours of Old Port Festival fun left. For everyone under 45, the annual downtown bash kicking off summer has been around their whole life. So until this March, there was no reason to think the annual Portland event wouldn’t be around forever.
That’s when the festival’s longtime organizer, Portland Downtown, announced that because the festival’s original mission of attracting folks to the Old Port’s shops and eateries had been accomplished, the event was no longer needed and would end. The Old Port is a bonafide international tourist destination now, so organizers want to use their time and money for other downtown events.
That means Sunday’s 46th annual Old Port Festival will be the last. So unless some group comes out of the woodwork to revive the festival in the future, this is your last chance to experience all it offers, from live music, kids’ activities and Shoestring Theater’s legendary parade to more than 230 vendors, including Maine crafters and food purveyors.
But with only six hours left, you’ve got to plan ahead to squeeze every drop of enjoyment out of this final Old Port Festival. So here a is minute-by-minute guide to help you do just that. (For exact times of events, see the festival schedule at portlandmaine.com.)
10:10 a.m. – Find free parking on Munjoy Hill somewhere and take the 10:10 a.m. Metro bus – free during the Old Port Festival – from North Street by the Eastern Prom. This way you can take in the whole city as you think about the day to come. The bus drops you at the Portland Public Library at 10:20.
10:25 a.m – Pick out a prime viewing spot along Exchange Street for the parade, which starts at 11 a.m. and heads down Exchange from Federal Street. The giant walking puppet heads, crafted and manned by Portland’s Shoestring Theater, are a sight not to be missed and should be viewed close up. While waiting for the parade, study the map and schedule of the festival you printed beforehand so you can locate the four restroom areas, the four entertainment stages and the rock climbing wall.
11:58 a.m. – Get the kids a front-row spot for the noon performance of Mad Science of Maine at Post Office Park. That way they can volunteer to be a “lab assistant” and help with some of the interactive experiments. Dry ice bubbles, perhaps? You could just stake a spot there and leave the kids (with a responsible adult, of course) for the next two kids shows – Portland Youth Dance at 1 p.m. and Maine Academy of Modern Music at 2.
12:27 p.m. – Begin lunch search, giving yourself time to browse the 45 or so vendors and food trucks, including local favorites like Melt, Holy Donut, Mr. Tuna, Eaux, Falafel Mafia, Cheevitdee, Dobra Tea and Gorgeous Gelato. There also are stands of fair food. The food is spread out around the Old Port, but many will be on Fore and Middle streets, so head there first.
1:02 p.m. – With food in hand, you’re just in time to catch Portland singer-songwriter Katie Matzell performing at the WCLZ Stage on Fore and Silver Streets.
1:40 p.m. – Keep the music playing by heading to Middle and Temple streets to see English singer-songwriter Nick Howard on the Coast 93.1/WPOR stage during his 1:30 p.m. set. Howard’s currently got a hit on the Coast called “Our Time.”
2:20 p.m. – Head to Middle and Market streets to begin your browsing tour of the wares of some 110 Maine-based arts and crafts makers. They’re mostly concentrated on Market Street from Middle down to Commercial.
3:32 p.m. – Bathroom break at portable restrooms at Market and Commercial streets.
3:45 p.m. – Head back to the WCLZ stage on Fore and Silver streets to catch some of the 3:30 p.m. set of The Mallett Brothers Band, a Maine favorite.
4:30 p.m. – Just when you think you’re out of energy, you decide you can’t let any area of the festival go unvisited. So head over to the EVO rock climbing wall at Federal and Market streets.
5 p.m. – Closing time. Take a retrospective last lap around the Old Port as people file out, food trucks clean up and vendors pack up. The event over the years has attracted 35,000 or more people. You likely will never see this sight again.
5:55 p.m. – Catch the free Metro bus at Monument Square, and ride it back to where you started.
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Old Port area of Portland, roughly between Congress, Commercial, Temple and Pearl streets.
HOW MUCH: Free admission; food and crafts for sale.
WHAT ELSE: This is scheduled to be the final Old Port Festival after a 46-year run.