From live music to highland games, summer fun is back in Belfast

·6 min read

Jun. 11—BELFAST, Maine — Belfast's usually full calendar of summer festivals and other seasonal events was largely erased last year, as organizers had to quickly pivot from in-person gatherings to virtual ones, or none at all.

But summer is back — and so are the festivals and fun times. And it's clear to Zach Schmesser, the executive director of Our Town Belfast, that people are eager to get out and enjoy themselves again.

"People are looking to make up for lost time, visiting with their friends and neighbors," he said. "We're just continuing to see lots of people out and about, which is great."

Without further ado, here's an introduction to some of the events that will be held in the midcoast city this summer.

Arts in the Park

Longtime fans of the waterfront art and fine craft festival, Arts in the Park — which is marking its 25th year — may notice some changes. That's because organizers decided to stop including participants from all over the country and return the focus squarely to Maine artists.

"We have reshaped this to be about Waldo County and Maine arts and crafts," Steve Ryan, the director of the Belfast Area Chamber of Commerce, which helps to put on the event, said. "It's really about our local arts economy."

The juried show also will be smaller than in past years, with about 60 artists and craftspeople in attendance. But with food vendors and live music, the atmosphere should be just as enjoyable, Ryan said.

"It will be a party," he said. "It'll be a very upbeat atmosphere."

Arts in the Park will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 26, and Sunday, June 27, at Steamboat Landing Park on the Belfast waterfront.

Belfast Summer Nights

There's nothing like sitting in the grass on a balmy evening, listening to live music in the company of what seems like the whole community. Last year, Belfast Summer Nights was able to hold a few concerts from the Armistice Bridge, with most of its audience safely distanced in canoes and kayaks on the river below. But this year, it's a return to business as usual, more or less, as the music festival marks its 26th year with a full slate of live music. Most of the concerts will be held on Thursday evenings at Steamboat Landing Park on the waterfront.

The season will kick off on Thursday, July 1, with local folk rockers Muskeg followed by local folk duo Elsie and Ethan.

"They're both very accessible to everybody," Ando Anderson, the founder and co-organizer of the series, said. "It's a sweet show to start the summer."

Other highlights include the Searsmont Street Band on Thursday, July 15, Dave Clark's jazz trio and Noah Fishman on Thursday, July 22, and the New Orleans street party band Tuba Skinny, on Tuesday, Aug. 3.

"Every year we've had it, it's gotten better," Anderson said.

Outdoor Summer Movie Series

This is a new one: free, family friendly movies that will be shown this summer on an inflatable screen set up at Steamboat Landing Park. The event is put on by Our Town Belfast, with support from the city of Belfast, Waterfall Arts and Belfast Community Media.

"Outdoor events have been and continue to be seen as some of the safest ways to bring communities together," Schmesser said. "We're hopeful this can become an annual Belfast tradition."

So far, the scheduled movies include "The Princess Bride," on Wednesday, July 7, "Babe," on Wednesday, July 21, "Toy Story," on Wednesday, Aug. 4 and "Wizard of Oz" on Wednesday, Aug. 18.

Belfast Summer Street Party

This summer's edition of the Belfast Summer Street Party will be smaller than in the past, when huge crowds packed a portion of High Street to listen to music, eat street food and enjoy lots of kids' activities.

But it will still be a good time, organizers said, and will feature food trucks and live music. So far, music groups Captain Obvious and The Country Mist Band, both local favorites, have confirmed that they will play.

"It's going to be a street party lite," organizer Mike Hurley said. "It'll be fun, it'll be shorter, it'll be a warm up for next year."

The Belfast Summer Street Party will be held on Monday, Aug. 2, in downtown Belfast.

Belfast Harbor Fest

The 14th annual Belfast Harbor Fest will return with a jam-packed schedule of activities. The Belfast Rotary Club, which holds the festival, is calling this summer's event the "Bicentennial Edition," as a nod to Maine's big birthday last year.

Over its three days, all kinds of fun is on tap, including the National Boat Building Challenge, a Come Boating! Regatta in Belfast Bay, a 5K road race, tours of Front Street Shipyard, a cardboard boat race and a lobster gala. There also will be exhibitors, a beer garden, a boat gear swap, a barbecue dinner, live music and more.

"It's good to be back," Mickey Sirota, of the rotary club, said.

Harbor Fest will kick off at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 13, with a silent auction and event on the waterfront, continue with a full day of activities on Saturday, Aug. 14 and finish at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 15.

Maine Celtic Celebration

Last year, the Maine Celtic Celebration went virtual. This year, it'll be back, featuring live music, dancing, storytelling, the Celtic dog show and the Highland Games, where "big people throw heavy objects long distances," according to Ryan, the president of the board of directors.

But instead of taking place over a weekend in July, it will be modified this year to a one-day event in September. In part, that's because when organizers began to make plans in December and January, the ongoing pandemic meant that "things looked really dark," he said.

So they decided to shorten it and eliminate one popular activity — the Cheese Roll, which often results in a scrum of people collapsing on top of each other as they race for the wheel of cheese.

"We did not want to have people rolling over each other," he said. "But we're doing almost everything else."

The ceremonies will be opened by New England's Consul General of Ireland, and special events include a talk on the history of the Irish in Maine, thanks to a partnership with the Maine Irish Heritage Center of Portland.

"It's back, and we're going to have a great time," Ryan said.

The Maine Celtic Celebration will be held on Saturday, Sept. 18.

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