2017-05-11 / Front Page

RiverJam 2017 plans underway

By Garrick Hoffman
Staff Writer

Saco Main Street Director Rob Biggs, left, and Engine Executive Director Tammy Ackerman talk RiverJam 2017 plans on Thursday, May 4 at Banded Horn Brewing Company in Biddeford. (Garrick Hoffman photo) Saco Main Street Director Rob Biggs, left, and Engine Executive Director Tammy Ackerman talk RiverJam 2017 plans on Thursday, May 4 at Banded Horn Brewing Company in Biddeford. (Garrick Hoffman photo) BIDDEFORD/SACO – Seeking to boost its attendance and provide a memorable experience for all, Heart of Biddeford and Saco Main Street have begun planning the 2017 RiverJam Festival with the help of others.

On Thursday, May 4, Heart of Biddeford Executive Director Delilah Poupore and Saco Main Street Executive Director Rob Biggs were joined by Heart of Biddeford volunteer Destiny Cyr, Biddeford resident and business owner Joe McKenney, and Engine Executive Director Tammy Ackerman. Engine is a nonprofit on Main Street in Biddeford that promotes and supports arts community of Biddeford and Saco.

RiverJam Festival, a two-day event in Biddeford and Saco, is in its fourth year and will host a variety of activities and performances. Every year has seen increased attendance, Poupore said, with last year attracting more than 2,000 people. The first year saw 500 people, and Poupore said they’re hoping for more.

Although the group seeks greater attendance, Biggs halfjokingly issued one concern.

“We’re going to run out of space if we get too big,” he said.

With a $31,000 budget, three musical acts have been secured to perform at the festival, including Amy Allen, Spencer Albee and the Mallett Brothers. The RiverJam team is seeking one more band or artist. The concert will be free, although in the past the event required purchased tickets, and in the future the organizers may have to charge again, Biggs said.

“It’s a community-building event at this point,” he said. “This can grow. I really want to see a signature event that really grows and takes off.”

The festival, which in past years has been a one-day event, will launch on Friday, Sept. 15 with the Battle of the Bands. Though still in planning stages, the Battle of Bands will host musical acts with individuals younger than 25 from schools such as Biddeford High School and Thornton Academy competing with one another. At the end of the show, it’ll be determined which band is the best and prizes will be awarded.

Saturday, Sept. 16 will continue the festival with a 5K race early in the morning, tentatively starting in Clifford Park in Biddeford and ending in Mechanic’s Park. At Mechanic’s Park there will be circus performers, kids’ games, food and more. A kayak and canoe race will begin at the boatyard by the park, and the day will end with a concert behind Run of the Mill Brewery sometime after 4 p.m. Food trucks and beer vendors will be present.

Biggs said he’s not concerned about food trucks and beer vendors taking business away from other businesses because of the volume of people and variety of preferences.

“Does it pull away money from local businesses? Yes and no,” he said. “Some people will go to trucks and some people won’t. It’s an event to get people to downtown Biddeford and Saco and realize it’s a good place to be and come back. In Pittsburg they do the same thing, and they said there’s so many people there and restaurants were packed. Our jobs are to create a vibrant downtown district.”

In addition, a less formal “fringe festival” will be held, Biggs said. For this, local business owners will be encouraged to offer specials or participate in other ways in accordance with RiverJam to celebrate both downtowns.

This can include restaurants and even churches, Biggs said. During Biddeford’s Downtown Holiday Festival, First Parish Church of Saco holds a craft fair to coincide with the festival, he said.

“It’s two cities, one river,” Biggs said, and both cities contribute money to the event. Last year, both cities contributed $5,000, but this year’s budget is still pending, he said. The group is also seeking an arts grant of $5,000 from the Maine Community Foundation for Friday night’s budget. They won’t know if they will get all or any of that for several more weeks, Poupore said.

Poupore and Biggs have now met three times and welcome the public to join its monthly “beer summits” – or gatherings at breweries such as Banded Horn and Dirigo Brewing in Biddeford – for feedback and suggestions for RiverJam. The meetings will soon be weekly, although when is to be determined. The group will meet until the festival begins.

There is no scheduled date for the next beer summit yet, but Heart of Biddeford will be active on its Facebook page for updates on the next meeting.


RiverJam Festival 2017 will be held Friday, Sept. 15 and Saturday, Sept. 16. Those interested in volunteering can contact Heart of Biddeford at 284-8520.

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