Celebrating the Holidays in Portland with Music, Shopping, and More!

Since joining Portland’s Downtown District in October as the Events and Marketing Manager, I have had the opportunity to be a part of a number of great holiday celebrations.  In November, I witnessed the cutting of a 55’ blue spruce and its journey across the Casco Bay Bridge to Monument Square, where it was adorned with over 4,500 LED lights.  The day after Thanksgiving, those lights were switched on by Hannah Storey, a child from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, with some help from Santa Claus and Rick Charrette & the Bubblegum Band.

This past weekend, I enjoyed all the Arts District has to offer with the Think Outside the Box event, which featured holiday sales, raffles, and demonstrations.  We kicked things off on Saturday with live music in Monument Square from local roots musician Dana Gross, who performed from the back of a festively decorated U-Haul truck courtesy of the fine folks at Mensk.  The mission of Mensk is to inspire and support personal, local, and regional action for the development of creative and sustainable communities, and you can often spot their mobile art truck during the First Friday Artwalk.

The Mensk truck rolled through the Arts District throughout the day, stopping for performances by Chas Lester and Portland’s premiere vaudevillians Over A Cardboard Sea.  Outside Renys, a couple even took the opportunity to waltz to the music.

I also stopped into the shops and galleries along Congress Street to check out all the great activities.  My first stop was at Others! for their fair trade organic tea tasting.  Next, I made my way up Congress Street to check out the raffles at Material Objects and The Merchant Company.  I also called my fiancée to tell her today was the perfect time to get me the fedora I want for Christmas, as Queen of Hats was offering 10% off.  At Daunis Fine Handmade Jewelry, I had the chance to check out their goldsmith in action as she set a diamond in an exquisitely sculpted ring band.

Saturday’s activities also coincided with Shop for A Cause Day, with participating businesses donating a portion of their sales to The Center for Grieving Children and The Portland Police Department’s Cadet ProgramLongfellow Books, a participating shop, also hosted “Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day” and let kids pick out a book for FREE! The store was packed all day with children eagerly thumbing through the colorful display of books.

Over at Heron Point Gallery, owner Bonnie Faulkner was offering shoppers the opportunity to create their own fused glass necklaces in return for a donation to the Shop For A Cause charities.  And the Portland Police Department cadets themselves were walking the street and helping to keep our community safe and clean.

Think Outside the Box continued on Sunday with more music from the Mensk Truck, including performances by Jay Biddy, Eric Bettencourt, and Meghan Yates.  Check out this video of Meghan Yates performing in Monument Square.

And be sure to head down to Monument Square during these next two weekends to catch a free horse & wagon ride.  Or stop into one of the many participating stores to enter the Twelve Days of Christmas raffle.  We will be picking six more winners between now and December 18th!

Finally, mark your calendars for Merry Madness on Thursday, December 15th! Merry Madness kicks off at the Portland Regency Hotel, 20 Milk Street, 5 – 6 pm with free hors d’oeuvres, fantastic raffle prizes from downtown merchants and your exclusive map of open stores.  Shops stay open late, until 10 pm.  Finish your holiday shopping and enjoy free refreshments!

Shop, Eat, and Be Merry!

There’s always something FREE to do in Downtown Portland this summer!

Portland bustles in the summer, we all love it.  Sometimes we want to get out and enjoy so many offerings  in Portland but it all costs money and our wallets wont allow it.   Never fear, there are some great, free things to do without your wallet –  like enjoying performances, live music (while supporting our local arts scene at the same time) and activities with the kids.

On Tuesdays, head to Post Office Park in July, or Congress Square in August for free performances from local performers. Enjoy your lunch from noon to 1:00pm outside and watch (or even participate in) belly dancing, fire dancing, West African drumming, acoustic blues, and more.  These events support our local arts community while costing you nothing, so it’s a win-win for all!

Wednesdays, take the kids to Lobsterman’s Park for crafts with the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine from 10:30 – 11:30 in July.  The Museum brings a t-rex jawbone for kids to investigate as they create their own dino fossil to take home, or they can learn about an owl’s silent flight and explore artifacts. 

Thursday afternoon is free music in Monument Square with Alive at Five from 5-7:30 to dance the day away with big band music, folk and jazz and more.

Fridays offers free music with local musicians from the Maine Songwriters Association in Post Office Park in July or Congress Square in August.  These up-and-coming artists are extremely talented and you can say you heard them here first before they hit the big time.

So leave your wallet at home, enjoy your lunch break outside in the sun with free entertainment, bring the kids in for some free fun and dance the night away every week this summer in downtown Portland.

For more details and a full list of free events visit portlandmaine.com

FREE music outside, in the sun, every week? Its Alive at Five Concert Series in Monument Square!

We love summer in Portland – who doesn’t! We trudge through some tough winter days and rainy (often brief) Springs, with our eye on the ball… the light at the end of the tunnel… summer in Maine.  The streets come alive with people out and about, restaurant patios are open, and decks throughout town are full of happy Portlanders.

One of the best, entertaining, fun, and FREE things to do when summer is finally here, is to head to Monument Square for Alive at Five.  Every Thursday from July 7th – August 4th, Portland’s Downtown District delivers live bands from 5pm-7:30pm right to your doorstep for free.  Just enough time to leave your day behind and start your evening off right with some tunes and fresh air.  When you want to do something outside and social but don’t have a wallet full of cash, or if you want to get friends together you havent seen since snow covered Monument Square, Alive At Five is here for you!

Each week hosts a different style of music, so if you want to rage with some psychedelic dirt-rock, swing dance your day away with big band music, or get nostalgic with folk, blues and soul melodies – Alive at Five Concert Series is has it all.

So put it on your summer calendar.  No commitment needed, no money required, (unless you want a cold beer from the Sebago Brewery beer garden) just show up and enjoy the gift of music and summer. 

The Mallett Brothers and Paranoid Social Club kick off the series this Thursday and a full list of Alive at Five band information can be found on the PDD website.

Summer is around the corner…

Although it may not seem like it some days, the events that fill our calendar  indicating the summer is here … are almost here.  For many it is Memorial Day weekend, graduation day or Fourth of July.  For us in downtown Portland it is the Old Port Festival on Sunday, June 12.

The festival has been entertaining locals and tourists alike for 38 years, filling the streets of beautiful downtown Portland with vendors, music, a parade, food and activities for the entire family.

On June 12, 4 local radio stations will host live music on their stages, the Maine Academy of Modern Music hosts a stage and Irish Music will entertain the public from Bull Feeney’s stage.  Artists and craftspeople from all over the state come out to sell their distinct wares in a dedicated area on Market Street, and kids and families have their own section on Federal and Newbury streets with a rock wall, bungee jumping, a trapeze swing and classic carnival style rides. The Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine presents arts and crafts in Post Office Park and kid friendly entertainment is scheduled throughout the day as well .

So whether you are interested in the amazing live acts, browsing local wares for a special item and hitting your favorite restaurant’s outdoor patio, or loading up on vendor foods like fried dough, Italian sausages and cotton candy, the Old Port has it all on June 12.  Under the rain or in the warmth of the sun, the Old Port Festival is on, and tells us all that summer is indeed around the corner. . .

Happy Birthday Maine!

In October of 1819, delegates met in Portland to create a state constitution and on this day, March 15, 1820, Maine was admitted into the Union. On this historical day, we decided to do a little research on this great state and city.  

A province of Massachusetts since 1647, the addition of Maine as a free state was negotiated as part of the Missouri Compromise in exchange for Missouri as a slave state.  By the 1820’s, the population of Maine had reached nearly 300,000, with 9 counties and 236 towns.  Portland was selected as the state capital, but only temporarily as the capital was moved to the centrally located Augusta in 1832.

What else was going on in America? The 1820 census showed 9,638,453 people living in the United States.  James Monroe was elected a second term in office and the most populated state was New York, with 1,372,812 residents.

The Portland seal depicts a phoenix rising from ashes, and the city’s motto is Resurgam – Latin for “I will rise again.” The motto refers to Portland’s recoveries from four devastating fires.   Speaking of devastating events, we had a few; The area was completely destroyed by the Abenaki people during King Philip’s War in 1676, and destroyed again in 1690 during King William’s War by French and Indian forces.  It was then generally abandoned until the Treaty of Portsmouth in 1713.

On October 18, 1775, the community was destroyed yet again during the Revolutionary War. Three-quarters of the town was in ashes after the burning of Falmouth.  There’s more.. On July 4, 1866, during independence day celebrations, The Great Fire destroyed most of the commercial buildings in the city, half the churches and hundreds of homes. More than 10,000 people were left homeless. After this fire, Portland was rebuilt with brick and reflects the Victorian appearance we enjoy today.

Only a snippet of our history, but a good reflection of how the community continued to reflect its motto throughout years.  So happy birthday Maine, for enduring, prospering and rising above the ashes.

The Annual Rite of Spring

The Portland Flower Show is here to pull us out of the grey fog of late winter!  A $15 ticket is well worth the chance to be transported into spring and enjoy the fresh flowers, trees and mulch, water fountains and garden gnomes and most of all to remind ourselves that there is a light at the end of the winter tunnel.  

A true labor of love, the event is not a huge money-maker for the vendors and nurseries, but does get people in the gardening mood and provides sparks  of ideas for creating that much-needed backyard retreat.

Coupons to local downtown businesses are available at the Downtown Portland booth at the show. After a shot of spring, attendees can head out to explore everything downtown has to offer and take advantage of great discounts and free offerings from restaurants, shops,  local trips and more.

Coupons, nurseries and vendors will be at the Portland Company Complex on Fore Street Thursday, March 12 through Saturday, March 14,  from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.  And from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm on Sunday, March 15th. There’s no charge for children under 12 if they’re with a paying adult.

Enjoy the early spring and great shopping!!

Portland’s Downtown Directory in the palm of your hand…

You may be noticing little boxes with geometric patterns popping up in magazines, flyers, trade shows and bars… they are QR codes (Quick Response) that contain information, connecting the virtual world to the physical world.  Similar idea to a bar code at a grocery store.  All you need is a mobile device with a camera and a QR code reader (free app you can download to your phone) to access the information stored in the pattern. 

We have officially jumped on the technology bandwagon and created a QR code (above) for the Downtown Directories. Directories are printed every year for visitors and locals alike to find just about anything in downtown Portland. Now you don’t have to carry around the directory and flip through its pages (takes so much energy!) but access everything it has to offer right from your mobile device. Scan the QR code above and while you are walking the cobblestone streets of downtown Portland, quickly and easily find the nearest Ethiopian restaurant or Italian Gelato, a sale on tourmaline jewelry, or where to try on that elusive little black dress.

There is a mapping functionality to show where to find what you are looking for and additional functionalities will be added to the directory in the coming months. Some shops are currently posting sales, events, coupons and discounts proving this QR code holds everything downtown Portland has to offer. So snap it, take it with you and explore!

Portland represented in James Beard Foundation Annual Awards

As an appropriate prelude to Restaurant Week here in Portland, semifinalists for Outstanding Restaurant and Chef Awards from the James Beard Foundation have been announced, and Portland is proudly represented.   Fore Street has been nominated for “Outstanding Restaurant” and their chef, Sam Hayward for “Outstanding Chef.”  Demos Regas from Emilitsa is in the running for “Best Chef – Northeast” as is Krista Kern Desjarlais from Bresca. 

Once again, Portland has positioned itself among the best of the best of the foodie world thanks to these great restaurants and chefs.  GOOD LUCK to the semifinalists and enjoy the amazing offerings during restaurant week – and all year long!

Judges from across the country will present a final list of nominees on March 21.

While you eagerly wait for the Valentine Bandit this weekend ….

  While everyone is waiting to see if the Valentine Bandit will visit us again this year – as locals have since 1976 – [valentines+2+portland+maine+february+2010.jpg]there are a few fun activities going on this Valentines Weekend in Portland.

Love Really Counts on Friday, February 11th when dozens of Portland, Maine musicians will gather on Empire’s stage to share their music, celebrate love, and support the generous, loving and caring work of The Center for Grieving Children. 100% of the proceeds benefits The Center for Grieving Children.

Downtown Showdown kicks of WinteRush with 32  top skiers and snowboarders in New England competing on the  man-made slopes of Monument Square. The fun begins Friday at 5:30.

Listen to romantic songs from Kelly Cuafield (and ladies get a free rose) at Anthony’s Dinner Theater on Saturday.

Holiday Inn By the Bay hosts the Chili & Chowder Challenge – Sunday, Feb 13th. Local restaurants will compete to be named the best chili & best chowder by the judges and by the Peoples’ awards.  Attendees get to sample the chilis & chowders and funds raised will be used by Altrusa of Portland to fund their scholarships and community service projects. If you have any questions about the event, please contact Anita Chandler at 772-2701

Photo by Corey Templeton, more of his photos can be found here ! portlandmainedaily.blogspot.com/

America’s Top Foodie Cities – Portland is #4!

cnbc.com and Sperlings Best Places have listed Portland at #4 for America’s Top Foodie Cities! Cities large and small, and sometimes overlooked are listed on cnn.com for food lovers across the country.  They looked at many different “foodie” aspects of our cities offerings – not just what Zagats or Michelin might say. 

Portland ranks after Santa Rosa, California, Portland, Oregon and Burlington,Vermont using the following criteria:  The ratio of local restaurants to chain restaurants, number of Whole Foods and cooking stores, number of wine shops, wine bars, craft breweries, and brew pubs; and the number of CSA (community supported agriculture) farms and local farmers markets.

 Here are some of the stats and details presented:
Local restaurant percentage: 81.9%
Population: 513,373
Breweries: 19, or 37 per million
Farmers Markets: 15, or 29.2 per million

“This New England city has proven to offer much more than the edible attractions the tourists seek out: lobstah and chowdah. Farmers are undeterred by Maine’s unforgiving winters, as 26 CSA farms and 15 farmers markets attest, resulting in local lamb, bacon, scallops, honey, and potatoes, and more.”

See the full list on cnbc’s website and go eat in Portland to celebrate!