2016-06-17 / Front Page

Launch! time has arrived

New festival celebrates towns’ maritime heritage
By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer


Kennebunk-Kennebunkport-Arundel Chamber of Commerce is hosting the first Launch! festival June 17-19. The full schedule of events – featuring activities happening all day long, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, in all three towns – is available at www.launchfestme.com. (Courtesy photo) Kennebunk-Kennebunkport-Arundel Chamber of Commerce is hosting the first Launch! festival June 17-19. The full schedule of events – featuring activities happening all day long, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, in all three towns – is available at www.launchfestme.com. (Courtesy photo) The Kennebunk-Kennebunkport-Arundel Chamber of Commerce is kicking off summer with an all-new celebration called, appropriately enough, “LAUNCH!”

Chamber Executive Director Laura Dolce said the idea was to create a signature event to be staged each year in the so-called “shoulder season” before the tourist buses really get rolling. However, for those who may be reeling from festival fatigue, Dolce stresses the new event is aimed largely at locals, filled with low-cost – and in most cases, free – events designed to celebrate the rich nautical history of the three towns served by the chamber.

“Just as importantly, this is really the first event that includes all three towns,” she said. “The board has talked about doing something like this for years, but last year we created a local marketing committee that said, let’s create something common to the three towns to appeal not just to visitors, but to the locals as well.

“We tossed around different ideas, lobsters and street festivals, but the one that kept coming back to us was the idea of a maritime festival, because that fishing and shipbuilding past is something that all three towns share,” Dolce said.

Said LAUNCH! Committee chair Michelle Allen, owner with her husband of Ambidextrous Landscaping in Kennebunk, “I do feel like there a lot of festivals in this area, but I do feel this one is so important because it focuses on our continuously reworked working waterfront, which sometimes we forget about.

“What we are really trying to focus on are the things that bring us together, in all three towns, and that includes our shared history in shipbuilding, lobstering and commercial fishing,” Allen said.

“At first we were kind of wondering how were going to put this all together, but people really came of the woodwork,” Allen said. “People were so excited about this, as an event that talks really more to the local people, with less expensive tickets and more events for families. It was really amazing. It felt like so much less work just because there were so many people who wanted to be involved.”

For Allen, the highlight of the weekend will be an old-fashioned lobster bake from 4 to 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 18, at the Pilot House restaurant. While folks eat at community tables, lobstermen young and old will stage demonstrations on how to build a lobster trap, including bending the wood on site.

“I think it will be a really special tribute to our area and our fishermen and our working waterfront,” she said.

While the schedule for LAUNCH! festivities focuses largely on the Kennebunk River and the twin tourist meccas of Dock Square and Lower Village, there are events for all ages in all three towns.

Some of the highlights include the Clam Jam, where kids rule in everything from bouncy houses to face painting and clam cake eating, taking place from 4 to 7 p.m. on Friday, June 17, at the Seafood Center of Maine in Arundel.

There’s also a Sailors & Sirens 5k, with proceeds benefiting the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (the starting gun fires at 9:15 a.m. on Saturday, June 18, outside the Franciscan Monastery in Lower Village), a Captain’s Cook-off pitting amateurs, professional chefs and kids (from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 18, at the Waterhouse Center on Main Street in Kennebunk), and a lighted boat parade on the river after sunset on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Sunday, June 19, at 8 a.m., will bring a blessing of the fleet ceremony to Cape Porpoise Pier in Kennebunkport, a longstanding tradition being revived after more than a decade.

The full schedule of events – featuring activities happening all day long, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, in all three towns – is available at www.launchfestme.com.

Additional information also can be had by stopping in to the Chamber of Commerce office at 16 Water St. in Kennebunk, or by calling 967-0857.

Staff Writer Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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