The Old Port Festival, or “Old Port Fest” as it’s known in Maine, is ending this year.
In March, Portland Downtown, the non-profit that organizes the event said 2019 would be the festival’s last year.
Its conclusion on Saturday caps a 46-year-long run that has seen the neighborhood change from a scrappy seaside street corners to the home of award-winning restaurants recognized around the world.
But despite having months to process the information, many Portlanders are upset.
Alison Stevens, owner of the Thirsty Pig bar and restaurant on Exchange Street, says Old Port Fest has consistently been her top earning day each year.
Stevens says she’s hoping local business owners will “take over” organizing the event.
The event has been Portland’s ultimate block party since its inception in 1973. It's a day meant to promote local artists and businesses.
Some city residents, like its mayor, Ethan Strimling, have been attending the concerts, buying from food vendors and enjoying craft brews for decades.
“What’s wrong with a rambunctious party that celebrates the city?” Strimling rhetorically asked. He says his first Old Port Fest was in 1990.
For the past few years the mayor has ridden in the accompanying annual parade on his motor scooter which he gets, “all decked out,” for the occasion.
Strimling says he expects there to be an effort to revive an Old Port Fest feel at a similar event even though the actual one is going away.
Portland Downtown did not give a specific reason for the festival’s conclusions, but has been quoted in several area news outlets as saying the festival “accomplished its mission.”
For some Mainers that grew up going to this event, that decision is “gutting” and ends something special they say embodies “the heart of the Old Port” or the “soul of Portland.”
The last Old Port Fest will be held Saturday.