Newport desires a festival of its own

Posted Sept. 23, 2010, at 11:35 p.m.

NEWPORT, Maine — A core group of volunteers is looking to add to its ranks considerably in pursuit of creating a Newport tradition they hope lasts for generations.

Gene Staffiere, the resource development coordinator for the Newport Cultural Center, and Selectman Roger Carr are spearheading an effort to create an annual festival in Newport, mostly likely over Labor Day weekend. A small group has already met several times but is now at the point that it needs more input and help from more volunteers.

“It seems like Newport is the only town in the state of Maine that doesn’t have its own festival,” said Staffiere. “We want to get some people together to see what we can come up with.”

Preliminary ideas are to host a two- to four-day festival — possibly named the Newport Cultural Festival — that celebrates some of Newport’s greatest assets, such as Sebasticook Lake, which sits entirely inside the town’s boundaries. Canoe and kayak races and activities at the town beach could fill one day and Staffiere said there is strong support for holding a bass tournament on another day.

“I’ve been told that Sebasticook Lake has some of the best bass fishing around,” said Staffiere, pointing out that the idea to host a festival has been discussed for several years. A recent suggestion by Carr to formally pursue the project was what sparked the creation of an exploratory committee.

To expand the range of activities, volunteers are reaching out to “any and all” community businesses and organizations to help launch the festival, said Staffiere. One challenge that’s already identified is a lack of a large enough space to contain the festival, which Staffiere said he hopes includes a carnival midway. Volunteers are exploring the idea of having multiple venues or possibly approaching private property owners with large nearby plots.

Staffiere said fundraising is not a huge concern because he hopes the cost can be supported by vendor license fees and other revenue generated at the festival. However, he hopes that many area nonprofit organizations can use the festival to pursue their missions and earn money.

The next meeting of the organizational committee is scheduled for Oct. 21 at the Newport Cultural Center, but Staffiere urged anyone interested in being involved to call him at 368-2193.

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