A summer festival will be reborn in Portland

Nearly three years after the Old Port Festival was scrapped, a new Portland festival focusing on arts and music is scheduled for June at Thompson’s Point.

Called Resurgam, the day-long event is hosted by the nonprofit Maine Academy of Modern Music, which works with a variety of community groups and businesses. The free festival will include many of the elements the Old Port Festival was known for over its 46 years, including stages for live music and performing arts bands, crafted arts and crafts in Maine, food and a parade featuring the towering Portland puppets. Tightrope theatre.

The new festival, slated for June 12, will focus on showcasing youth in the arts and on Portland’s creativity, said Jeff Shaw, executive director and founder of MAMM.

“We understand that we’re filling some of the void left by the Old Port Festival, but it’s new and we’re not trying to replicate that,” Shaw said. “We want it to be a community festival for everyone.”

Spectators on Exchange Street watch the Shoestring Theater parade during the last Old Port Festival in 2019. In June, the Shoestring Theater will bring its parade to the new Resurgam Festival on Thompson’s Point. Photo by Carl D. Walsh/Photographer

The Old Port Festival was one of Portland’s signature events, held every June to kick off summer and attracting up to 30,000 people in one day. It started in 1973 as a way to attract people to businesses in the Old Port. The area then was a bit worn around the edges and certainly not the nationally renowned tourist, shopping and dining destination it is today. Portland Downtown, the nonprofit downtown improvement group that organized the event, announced in March 2019 that the festival would end that year as it was no longer needed; people had taken notice of all the offers at the Old Port. Organizers decided their time and energy would be better spent on other Old Port events, including Christmas celebrations.

Many in Portland have lamented the loss of a festival that kicked off the summer, brought together so many people, and focused on local artists and musicians. Nance Parker, director of the Shoestring Theatre, said she was happy to hear about the new festival, not only because it takes away some of the sting of the demise of the Old Port Festival, but because after over two years of the COVID pandemic, Portlanders really need this.

“I think it’s really exciting. We need to get back to that community feeling of ‘Hey Portland, it’s summer and we’re all here, we’ve been here all winter, now let’s go out and have fun together’ Parker said, “I think that’s really essential for a city. It’s time for us to start breathing and living again.”

The name of the festival comes from the motto of the city of Portland, adopted in 1832, which means “I will rise again” in Latin. The city has literally risen from the ashes more than once, notably after being bombarded by the British Navy in 1775 and after a devastating fire in 1866.

Shaw said he thinks Resurgam has a special meaning right now, as we’re all looking to get back to a more normal life after two years of COVID.

“I think that’s the feeling right now, that we’re coming out of COVID,” Shaw said.

Some of the new festival’s partner arts and community groups include Boys and Girls Clubs of Southern Maine, Learning Works, A Company of Girls, Portland Public Library, Shoestring Theatre, Portland Community Squash, Children’s Museum & Theater of Maine, and the arts and music venue Space. Shaw said specific performance and activity details are still being worked out. The partner groups will probably be present at the festival, either to promote their missions or to organize demonstrations or performances.

Concerts featuring national artists are held outdoors at Thompson’s Point in the summer, on a large grassy area on the River Fore. Much of the Resurgam Festival will be held in or near this area. People shopping or attending events at Thompson’s Point usually have to pay to park there, but Shaw said he’s been working to find parking sponsors to provide as much free parking as possible. Shaw hopes people will walk, bike or kayak to the waterfront site. Thompson’s Point is located about two miles west of the Old Port.

Nance Parker, director of the Shoestring Theatre, organizes the parade before the last Old Port Festival in 2019. Parker and the parade will be part of the new Resurgam festival scheduled for June at Thompson’s Point in Portland. Photo by Carl D. Walsh/Photographer

While the Old Port Festival demanded the closure of city streets, Thompson’s Point is a private 30-acre arts, entertainment, retail and events complex on the River Fore. Chris Thompson, owner and promoter of Thompson’s Point, wrote a letter to the Maine Office of Tourism in support of the festival and its organizers.

“Their goal of celebrating music, youth and the arts is a winning formula for everyone involved, and would be a signature Maine event that would signal the start of a summer of arts, culture and great experiences for all. “Thompson wrote.

Shaw said there will be at least four stages at the festival, hosting MAMM groups, local adult musicians and performing arts groups. One of MAMM’s stages will host musicians who recently immigrated to Maine as part of its International Music Connection program. Arts and crafts will be on display in a large building at Thompson’s Point, called Brick South, while music and entertainment will be outdoors, Shaw said.

The events manager for the new festival will be Sally Newhall of Sea Glass Events, who held the same position at the Old Port Festival.

The new festival is a “fresh and diverse cultural event” that has the potential to draw tourists to the city and help the local economy, said Hannah Collins, deputy director of the Maine Office of Tourism. The office gave Resurgam a $10,000 grant to help market the festival, she said.

“We are looking for projects that show collaboration within the community and can improve the tourism economy. It has those elements,” Collins said.

Some of the festival’s sponsors so far include Machias Savings Bank, Coffee By Design, Bissell Brothers Brewing, State Theatre, Maine Life Real Estate of eXp Realty, Dale Carnegie Training, Nadra Photography and UPP Global, Shaw said. Anyone interested in participating in the festival, including as a vendor, sponsor or stage host, can visit Resurgamfest.com.

Students from the Maine Academy of Modern Music on the MAMM stage at the 2019 Old Port Festival. Photo by François Gagné Commercial Photography

MAMM is a 14-year-old Portland-based nonprofit that runs music programs for children and teens statewide. It served some 2,000 young people before the pandemic and about half that number since, Shaw said. The organization gives lessons, helps children form bands and get concerts, organizes summer camps and organizes public performances. The Old Port Festival had been an essential showcase for MAMM students and groups, who performed there every year on the MAMM stage and took part in the parade.

“When I learned that the Festival du Vieux-Port was cancelled, I was so sad. It was so much fun and there were always big crowds,” said Rosa Slack, 14, of Portland, a MAMM student who plays multiple instruments and performed at the Old Port Festival. “I’m really happy to have the opportunity to play (at a festival) again.”

Julie Butcher Pezzino, executive director of the Children’s Museum & Theater of Maine, said Resurgam will help the organization in its mission to introduce children to the arts. Pezzino said the museum, which opened its new building at Thompson’s Point in June, will likely host a stage with live music at the festival. She is also happy that Resurgam gives young musicians, actors or other performers a chance to be seen by a large audience. It was something vital that the Old Port Festival had provided, she said.

Jeff Shaw, executive director and founder of the Maine Academy of Modern Music, stands on Thompson’s Point where the new Resurgam festival will be held in June. The Children’s Museum & Theater of Maine is visible on the right. Brianna Soukup/staff photographer

Kelsey Halliday Johnson, executive director of Space, thinks Resurgam will fill a current need in the city, a need for a place where people can be introduced to the arts without specifically having to buy a ticket to a concert hall or museum. .

“This fills a pressing need in the community. Not everyone walks into an art room, so we need to make sure there are outdoor events like this where people can stumble upon the arts, in a way that they don’t don’t do in everyday life,” Johnson said.

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