Carnaval Maine’s first year in the Old Port with its new emphasis on food and entertainment has been a success, organizers reported Sunday.

The five-day festival still featured some of the winter games and activities from its first two years on the Eastern Prom, but the event benefitted from its new location at DiMillo’s on Commercial Street, said Brian Corcoran, CEO of Carnaval Maine and the owner-operator of Shamrock Sports & Entertainment, a Portland marketing agency.

Paisley Cole 4, of Waterboro, watches bubbles from her bubble wand while at Carnival Maine on Saturday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

The Eastern Prom had loads of charm, but it was remote, said Corcoran. With the new location, “we’re getting great feedback from fans who are here with the overall energy,” he said.

“It’s great having Carnaval Maine integrated into the fabric of our award-winning culinary and the appreciated bar scene here. It’s been beneficial for us and them.”

The festival’s first day, Thursday, was slower than expected, Corcoran said, but attendance picked up on the weekend.

“Friday night was phenomenal. We’re very pleased,” he said.


This year’s activities included ice carving and plenty of outdoor games for kids, but the event depended more heavily on entertainment and the city’s well-known food scene.

The outside stage was located at one end of DiMillo’s parking lot while a huge, blow-up igloo stood at the other. Hundreds of people were inside the heated igloo Saturday at a “Bites & Brews” session, where ticket buyers were served six pairings of appetizers and alcoholic drinks.

Marilyn Martell and Debbie Carpenter of New Hampshire were bundled in winter jackets, listening to a rock band perform outside.

“Those ladies were amazing,” Martell said of “The Shadows,” a youth band from the Maine Academy of Modern Music. “We heard them and had to come over here and listen.” The band performed songs by Adele.

Andrew Murdoch of Windham, who was watching his daughter, Isla, perform in “The Shadows,” said he was enjoying the atmosphere.

“Any type of gathering is wonderful for the city. It’s nice that they have this,” Murdoch said, adding that he was a little disappointed the event was moved this year.


“I would have liked it to stay on the Eastern Prom, it’s kind of a special place. A little more than a parking lot,” he said.

Nearby, people watched artists create ice carvings while others tried curling on a synthetic surface. Some players won prizes when they landed the disc in the bullseye. Others played cornhole.

By the time the festival wrapped up Sunday night, Corcoran expected attendance would be between 15,000 to 20,000 over the five days. He said all the Bites & Brews sessions were sold out or nearly sold out.

Robert Flannery 10, of Gorham, tries curling as part of Carnaval Maine on Saturday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Inside the igloo, the smell of enticing food hung in the air. Groups of friends chatted at small tables while lines formed to sample food and drinks.

Kristine Bernier of Waterboro and her friend Amanda Whittier of Sanford came with Bernier’s daughter, Paisley, 4. The girl was making bubbles with her new bubble wand. Bernier said she approves of Carnaval Maine and its new location.

“I’m a fan of 12/OC,” she said. “They’re the opener for Michael Ray” Saturday night, which was one of the national, touring groups.


“We go to see (12/OC) a lot. So we came here because I’m a fan,” Bernier said. The two friends said they liked the atmosphere, the food, drinks, games, and music, “and that the kids can come in with us.”

Attending helped with cabin fever, Whittier said. “It’s winter, so it is hard to find things to do.”

Oysters from Damariscotta are plated at a table set up by Rising Tide during Bites & Brews at Carnaval Maine on Saturday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Betsy Roberts of Mount Desert said it was her first time attending Carnaval Maine.

“It’s very fun,” she said. She enjoyed clam chowder, donuts and scallops and gave a thumbs up to the Dunkin’ Irish coffee served with alcohol and paired with a chocolate croissant.

Dunkin’ spokesman Kevin Mitchell said their beverage was a fun twist on Irish coffee made with homemade Irish cream, coffee bitters, and alcohol.

“It’s going over well,” he said. “People keep coming back and having more.”


Nearby, people lined up for an oyster on a shell. In another line, people were handed a taste of lobster bisque from Luke’s Lobster.

This year, the nightly performances of headliner acts started and ended earlier. When the acts ended at 10 p.m. last year, “a lot of people went home,” Corcoran said. With this year’s acts ending at 8 p.m., people streamed into local businesses. “We’re giving people an excuse to stay in the Old Port and support local businesses.”

This year’s festival will provide lessons on what to do next year, he said.

There’ll be more, bigger, and better entertainment, keeping the Bites & Brews, plus food trucks, nightly fire pits, fireworks on the opening day, ice carvings, and more things to do. Corcoran plans to explore friendly competitions to tie in the waterfront, snow, and ice.

“We still want it to be a celebration of winter,” he said, adding with a chuckle that they probably can’t pull off dog sleds on Commercial Street. “We’ll be looking at some things we could do to enable us to embrace winter.”

Related Headlines

Comments are no longer available on this story

filed under: