Even though Valentine’s Day is now behind us, evidence of it can still be found all over Portland, Maine.
The annual “Valentine Bandit” hit the city again this year.
For decades, visitors and Portlanders have woken up to heart banners, posters and flags on buildings, balconies, in windows and hanging off Fort Gorges in the middle of Casco Bay.
Many in the city say that finding the hearts is like a soul-warming game of “I Spy” that they look forward to yearly, while tourists often find the decorations a novelty.
“I was researching Portland, Maine, and it happened to be that the weekend we were coming up for Valentine’s, the Valentine Bandit struck,” said Kris Hyatt, who was visiting Maine from North Carolina with her boyfriend on Monday.
“We went around taking pictures of all the hearts on the buildings and bridges and posted them on Facebook,” she added.
This year, the hearts took on an extra message as a symbol of hope and community amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jacqueline Van Meter said she was pleasantly surprised to find a heart in the basement window of the buildings she lives in and called it appropriately, “heartwarming.”
“I feel like my heart is especially tender right now so just to see that, see those signs of life and love in the community that we don’t often get exposed to, is really beautiful,” she said.
Other Portlanders who found hearts at the entrances of their businesses Sunday morning said they brought smiles to their faces as well.
“I open the store most days here and I came in and there were several red hearts up on the door there and we had one very special one,” said Miles Brook, the manager of the Portland location of The Fish & Bone, a pet supply store, referencing the rainbow heart incorporating elements of the pride flag that he found.
“We employ several LBTQ+ employee, myself included, so it was really nice to see that,” he added.
Whatever the meaning seen or unseen that was found in the banners or taped papers, they certainly gave people something to smile about this weekend.
Among the people NECN/NBC 10 spoke to Monday, there was unanimous agreement that if there was ever a time to have a heart, it was now.