As surely as springtime giveth, lo, does it taketh away. Remember that blast of 80 degree weather we had just a short time ago? And then the frigid burst of wind that rushed in to replace it? Spring is a tempestuous season, but for every day it’s just cold enough to be unpleasant, there’s another day that woos us with sunshine and glimpses of the first buds on trees. As you begin to ponder putting your coats and mittens in the back of the closet to slumber until November, Mainers begin to plot and plan all the fun the warmer months invite. Here are 25 things to do this spring, on days both balmy and rainy, starting in these early April weeks and extending until summer sun is upon us.
Rockland Shorts, 8 p.m. Friday, April 6, and Friday, June 1, Strand Theatre, Rockland
The Strand Theatre and the Farnsworth Art Museum have teamed up to bring a new series of short films to the midcoast. The series will include an hour of films from Maine and beyond, and as part of the screening, select filmmakers and media artists included in the series will join in a post-screening discussion in person or by Skype for a conversation with the audience. Expect contemporary, probing, independent films that help define the digital generation without restriction of culture, format, formula or genre.
Shoot Your Face Off, Vol. 2, 5-8 p.m. Friday, April 6, Space Gallery, Portland
As part of Portland’s monthly First Friday Art Walks, the Space Gallery hosts this event that brings teams of photographers and artists into the Congress Street gallery to create unique photo scenarios for the walk-in crowd. Art walkers can have a professional, one-of-a-kind portrait taken, at a cost of $20 per portrait, with the proceeds split with the artists 75-25 in favor of the artists. The event will run simultaneously with the exhibit “Portes: An International Exhibition of Maine Artists in Greece,” presented by the Hellenic Society of Maine and Tetra Projects.
Central Maine Brew Fest, 2-6 p.m. Saturday, April 7, Augusta Armory
Seventeen Maine brewers, two great Maine blues bands, lots of food and a chance to rub elbows with some of Maine’s biggest beer geeks — for those enamoured with Maine’s wildly popular craft brewing scene, the Central Maine Brew Fest is a must-attend. From Allagash and Baxter to Fatty Bampkins Cider, you can taste and compare a vast array of Maine brews, as well as learn some tips for making your own from Bangor’s Central Street Farmhouse. Admission is $25, which gets you tastings of everything. Food, such as a slice from the mobile pizza oven Uproot Pie Co., is extra — but it’s so worth it.
Fort Kent fire relief benefit concert, 8:30 p.m. Saturday, April 7, Empire Dine and Dance, Portland
From one corner of the state to the other, Mainers stick together. There are a lot of Fort Kent and Aroostook County natives living in the Portland area, and a lot of those folks are great musicians — and together, they’ve quickly organized a benefit concert to help those displaced by the recent fire in downtown Fort Kent. Join Dominic and The Lucid, John Clavette, Frank Hopkins and performing artist Tony Chexmix, all Northern Maine natives, for a night of indie rock. Admission is $7, with all proceeds going to help the Fort Kent community.
‘What’s Opera Got To Do With It?’ 9-11 a.m. Wednesday, April 11, Grand Theatre, Ellsworth
Think your kids could use a dose of culture during April vacation? Then sign them up for “What’s Opera Got To Do With It?” a special presentation at the Grand Theatre for ages 12-17 by the Metropolitan Opera in New York. This workshop includes an HD screening of The Met’s “The Magic Flute,” and teaches the basics of opera, stressing its relevance as art, history, performance, music and as storytelling, as well as the many technical aspects behind it. The workshop is $7 and includes an opportunity to buy a $7 ticket for the April 14 screening of “La Traviata.”
Victoria’s Wonderama, March 30-April 21, Victoria Mansion, 109 Danforth St, Portland
If you’re a fan of steam punk, you’ll want to check this out. If you have no idea what steam punk is, you’ll want to check this out anyway. Victoria’s Wonderama, set up in the historic Victoria Mansion in Portland, is an art exhibit by regional artists, dedicated to the 19th century sense of wonder, complete with magic lanterns, stereographs, Victorian fashions, maps, objets d’art and much more. On April 7, 14 and 21, there will be free croquet tournaments on the lawn, weather permitting. Admission to the mansion is $15 for adults and $5 for those under 17.
Franco-American Heritage Center events, April-June, Oxford Street, Lewiston
Proud of your French heritage? Or just looking for some fun in the Lewiston-Auburn area? Try the beautiful Franco-American Heritage Center, housed in a former Catholic church. There are a number of jazz and classical music events set, including the Maine Music Society (April 1), chanteuse Joelle Morris (April 7), a Broadway revue (April 21), jazz with the Turtle Island Quartet (May 6), the Midcoast Symphony Orchestra (May 12) and pianist Mauro Bertoli (May 26). There’s also the L/A Film Festival, set for April 13-15, which has the Franco Center as its home base and includes concerts by Don McLean and the NY Funk Exchange. And don’t forget the Franco Fun Festival on June 2.
Wild game dinner, 4:30-8 p.m. Friday, April 13, Unity College
Satisfy your adventurous palate with this popular yearly event at Unity College. Unity students prepare a multicourse meal using wild game such as moose, bear, venison, duck, goose, beaver and much more. Whether you’re a seasoned sportsman or an avowed foodie, this is a dinner to be remembered. It’s offered in conjunction with Unity’s annual Sportsman’s Conference. Get your tickets now ($15-$30), as it’s bound to sell out; call 948-9205 to make a reservation.
Robinson Ballet Live, April 13-15 at The Grand in Ellsworth, April 20-21 at the Bangor Opera House
See some of the finest dancers in Maine in action with the Robinson Ballet’s annual spring showcase, featuring original choreography performed by dancers of all ages. Keith Robinson, Maureen Lynch, Stevie Dunham and Terry Lacy have yet another program of challenging, beautiful dances set for this year. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and $5 for children. Performances are 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, with a 3 p.m. Saturday youth matinee.
Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum, Bowdoin College, Brunswick
For the curious person, the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum at Bowdoin College in Brunswick is a little-known treat. The museum houses an extensive collection of artifacts that’s as fascinating for adults as it is for kids, and it also offers up lots of interesting information about the current state of the Arctic. A perfect educational trip during school vacation week.
DudeFest 2012, 8 p.m. Saturday, April 14, One Longfellow Square, Portland
The only ironic thing about One Longfellow Square’s DudeFest 2012 — a celebration of the iconic film “The Big Lebowski” — is that it’s on April 14, a Saturday. As anyone who’s seen the movie knows, Walter Sobchak doesn’t roll on Shabbos. But no matter; it’ll be a fun event regardless. The movie will be shown from 8 to 10 p.m., followed by a costume contest and a performance from the Little Lebowski Urban Under Achievers. Admission is $6, or $3 if you come in a bathrobe. This isn’t bush-league psych-out stuff. The dude abides.
Record Store Day, Saturday, April 21, at stores statewide
Record Store Day started with Maine’s own Bull Moose Music and it’s now an international phenomenon, celebrating independent record stores around the world. On April 21, many stores in Maine will participate in the festivities, which include countless limited edition releases from everyone from Aretha Franklin to Wilco. In Maine, all Bull Moose locations are participating, as well as Record Connection in Waterville, Sounds Absurd in Portland, Newbury Comics in South Portland and Everyday Music in Farmington.
Canoe races, beginning March 31, through late April, statewide
The very first canoe race of the season is today, March 31, on the St. George River. Then, on April 7, it’s off to the races on the Passagassawakeag in Belfast. The Soudabscook Race is set for April 14, the Marsh River Race is set for both April 12 and 15, and the Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race takes off on April 21. Races on the Piscataquis and Machias Rivers are set for the weekend of April 28-29, and the Meduxnekeag in Aroostook County will be raced May 5. What are you waiting for? Visit mackro.org for more info on signing up.
HOPE Festival, Saturday, April 21, University of Maine Orono
The 18th year for this indoor fair will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Student Recreation Center on the UMaine campus, and boasts a day of family-friendly activities, including music, arts and crafts, dancing and more, as well as discussions and workshops on a variety of topics from peace and justice to sustainable living. The keynote speaker is Bill McKibben, a prominent environmentalist. Admission is free.
Belfast Free Range Music Festival, Saturday, April 28, downtown Belfast
Now in its third year, this event keeps growing and size and scope, bringing in musicians from all over the world and all over Maine. On April 28, starting around 11 a.m. and going into the wee hours, you can hear alt-country rocker Anders Parker (Vermont), singer-songwriter Sharron Kraus (Scotland), blues rockers Lonesome Shack (Seattle) and When Particles Collide (Bangor). Tickets are $25 for the whole day, and are available online at freerangemusicfestival.com.
Bath Mayfair, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, May 5
Downtown Bath turns into a springtime wonderland, with its annual Mayfair celebration. Besides the yard sale, sidewalk sales and farmers market, there’s also a traditional Maypole dance from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., a daylong scavenger hunt and the unveiling of Bath’s new trolley system. For information, visit Bath’s website at visitbath.com.
Plant sales, statewide
When May hits, thoughts turn to gardening. Whether you’re looking for some horticultural classics or some more exotic varieties, buying your plants from local garden sales helps support the local economy. The Black Bear Beauties Native Plant Sale is set for May 11-13 at the Lyle Littlefield Gardens at the University of Maine in Orono; the Belfast Garden Club’s annual Green Thumb Sale is set for the morning of Saturday, May 19, at the Belfast Boathouse; the Ellsworth Garden Club has theirs on Saturday, May 26, at Donald Little Park; the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay holds their annual Not Your Average Garden Sale from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. May 26-27; and the Hammond Street Senior Center in Bangor offers their plant sale the first weekend of June.
Thursday Night Throwdown latte art competitions, Bard Coffee, 8-11 p.m. April 26 and May 31, Portland
Bard Coffee — recently listed by CNN as one of the nation’s 17 best small coffee makers — hosts a monthly Latte Art Throwdown for baristas both professional and amateur. Who can make the best, prettiest latte? Perhaps with a little leaf? A heart? A pinecone? Something no one’s seen before? It’s $5 to compete, and the winner takes it all. With all that caffeine, don’t expect to go to bed afterward.
Kid Central Festival, Saturday, May 5, downtown Bangor
For the second year in a row, downtown businesses and organizations in Bangor will team up to offer a full day of fun, kid-friendly activities. Last year there were activities such as soda-making at Central Street Farmhouse and make-your-own cannolis at Giacomos; expect more creative events for you and your family this year.
WRFR Fashion Show, 6-9 p.m. Sunday, May 6, Lincoln Street Center, Rockland
Rockland’s community radio station hosts its annual fashion show, bringing fancy duds from shops such as Heavenly Threads, the Grasshopper Shop, Serendipity, Maces and Lady’s Room and designers such as Orlando Benedict and Elykssor. Local models will be strutting the catwalk, and bands and DJs will perform all night. Admission of $6 in advance or $8 at the door will benefit WRFR’s diverse lineup of programming.
Moose Mainea, May 18-June 17, Greenville area
For a month in the spring, the Greenville area celebrates all things tall, gangly and antlered — Maine’s beloved spirit animal, the moose. The events include a townwide yard sale, craft fair, kids fun day and more, and it’s also a great time to visit the Moosehead region, before tourist season begins and in the midst of trees and flowers blooming. For information, call the Moosehead Area Chamber of Commerce at 695-2702.
Bug Light Kite Festival, Saturday, May 19, South Portland
On Saturday, May 19, make like Mary Poppins and go fly a kite. Members of the Noreasters Kite Club and Kites Over New England will lend their expertise and offer many activities, including a “How to Fly a Kite” workshop, demonstrations of show kites, bol racing and a candy drop for the kids. And you can visit Bug Light itself, one of Maine’s many lighthouses. For information, call 767-7299.
Birding festivals, May 25-June 3, Washington and Hancock counties
For those more interested in tweets from our feathered friends than tweets from the Internet, there are two wonderful opportunities for birders in Downeast Maine. The annual Down East Spring Birding Festival is set for May 25-28 in and around the Cobscook Bay area, with headquarters at both the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge in Baring and at the Cobscook Community Learning Center in Trescott. The Acadia Birding Festival runs from May 31-June 3, and visits points all over Mt. Desert Island.
Trek Across Maine, June 15-17, from Bethel to Belfast
For three days over Father’s Day weekend, cyclists can take a 180-mile trip across the state to raise money for the American Lung Association. There are many teams registered for the trek, and it’s fun to watch them roll into different towns as they ride from the mountains to the sea.
Blistered Fingers Bluegrass Festival, June 14-16, Litchfield
Looking for an easy, laid-back way to get into summer? Try the Blistered Fingers Bluegrass Festival, a yearly event that celebrates bluegrass from all over. Featured acts this year include the Lonesome River Band from Virginia, Little Roy and Lizzie Long from Tennessee and Georgia, and Mainers such as Original Condition at the Maranacook String Band. For tickets and information, visit blisteredfingers.com/junefest.html.