‘Carnaval Maine': Bringing a Canadian Winter Tradition to Portland

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A Canadian tradition has made its way to Maine.

A number of groups, led by Portland-based Shamrock Sports and Entertainment, have come together to put on Carnaval Maine, modeled after and partnered with Carnaval de Quebec, the 50-year-old, 10-day party that lights up Quebec City each year.

"We're kind of leaning into that as opposed to doing a traditional carnival with an 'i,'" said Brian Corcoran, Shamrock's CEO.

Corcoran says the Quebec event brings about $38 million into the province each year.

His expectations for Portland's version are much smaller, but what he calls "a calculated risk" being taken with partners like Sunday River Ski Resort.

Plans call events centered around an official USAA Rail Jam, ice sculptures, light displays and Maine food and drink over three days on Portland's Eastern Promenade.

"I think it's a year-over-year build," said Corcoran, adding the celebration will be distinctly Maine in its food and drink offerings, from local names like Allagash Brewing and Luke's Lobster.

There will be a touch of Canada however, since Quebec City is lending its Bonhomme snowman mascot ahead of its Carnaval a short time later.

As for how the event will be received, Portlanders are optimistic.

Marie Stewart Harmon, who works at Lisa-Marie's Made in Maine, a store offering local items on Exchange Street, said extra foot traffic is welcome and needed in late January and early February.

"January's pretty slow here in the Old Port," said Harmon. "If we could have another event here to bring [customers] in the cold, that would be great."

Others out and about in the city were curious.

"I think folks in Portland like to see how things go," said Ellen Clark, out walking Pepper the dog Wednesday afternoon. "If it's great, there will be buzz, and more people will come out for next year."

That's a sentiment Corcoran is already talking about himself.

He says a longer Carnaval Maine could easily be in the works for 2021 as the plans for the inaugural version are finalized.

More information of Carnaval Maine 2020 is available at Most event prices range from free to $65.

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