LEWISTON — After visiting too many beer festivals in too many corners of the Northeast — sometimes three or four in a single weekend — Baxter Brewing founder Luke Livingston figured it was time to launch a festival in Lewiston-Auburn.

He and his growing staff had learned a lot while setting up tables and taps and watching drinkers queue up a 4-ounce pour. And here, Baxter could showcase its home.

“We’re going to Bangor. We’re going to Lincoln, N.H. We’re going to Boston. We’re going to Burlington, Vt.,” Livingston said. “We’re going to five in Portland. We’re going everywhere but Lewiston-Auburn. We said, ‘Wait a second; this isn’t right. It’s not who we are. It’s not what we stand for.’”

They hope to change that Saturday with the inaugural Great Falls Brewfest.

Livingston hopes to gather about 2,000 people at Simard/Payne Memorial Park for a five-hour tasting and celebration of summer.

Plans call for 30 brewers — about half from Maine — with 100 brews, six food trucks and two bands. And if it goes well, Livingston hopes to make it an annual event.

If the weather holds, he thinks he has a good chance. After all, it’s the first day of summer, there are few other large events scheduled for the area this weekend and he and an eight-member Baxter group have been planning this for six months.

“We wanted it to be outside, for sure,” Livingston said. “We didn’t want to herd everyone into a room, make them stand in line for a long time to drink beer and there’s nothing else going on. We really wanted to create this destination/celebration type of event where the beer is the focus, but there’s music and there’s food trucks and there’s a craft fair and a cornhole tournament.”

It is scheduled to begin at noon with a VIP hour, when each brewer will serve an exclusive brew. At 1 p.m., the festival will open to the general public.

Admission is $60 for a VIP ticket, $40 for general admission and $20 for a designated driver ticket, which allows people to enjoy the festival without drinking alcohol. Anyone under 21 years of age will be prohibited.

Lewiston police officers and medical personnel will be on hand to provide security and assistance. There will also be 60 to 70 volunteers at the event.

The site and the city are ready to handle the event, said Lincoln Jeffers, Lewiston’s director of economic and community development.

“The infrastructure is in place,” Jeffers said. “The park has accommodated tens of thousands of people during the Balloon Festival and the Dempsey Challenge. We’d like to see this grow to those proportions.”

For Livingston, the festival is a chance to drum up more customers, even if that means introducing them to brews from as far away as California.

“It helps all of us because craft beer drinkers don’t drink just Baxter beer,” he said. “They don’t drink just Allagash. They drink everybody’s beer. So anybody in the community we can turn on to better beer is a win as much for me as it is for anybody else.”

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The Great Falls Brewfest will kick off at noon Saturday with a VIP hour, when each of 30 brewers will serve an exclusive brew. At 1 p.m., the festival will open to the general public.

Admission is $60 for a VIP ticket, $40 for general admission and $20 for a designated driver ticket, which allows people to enjoy the festival without drinking alcohol.

VIP and general admission ticket holders will be given a glass when they enter. In most lines, the glass will permit the holder to a 4-ounce pour. There is no specific limit to how many beers festival-goers can consume. However, volunteers and law enforcement will be watching for people who overindulge, said festival organizer Luke Livingston of Baxter Brewing.

Tickets may be purchased online at www.greatfallsbrewfest.com, at Baxter Brewing and at the event gate.

Six trucks will have food to sell to festival-goers. There will be a craft fair, a cornhole tournament and two live bands.

The event will strictly prohibit anyone under 21 years of age. It is scheduled to conclude at 5 p.m.


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