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Events like Brewfest on Saturday draw more visitors to downtown Augusta

A band performs as people sample the drinks at the Kennebec River Brewfest in Augusta’s Mill Park in June 2019. This year’s version of the event begins at noon on Saturday. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal File

AUGUSTA — As hundreds of people are expected to flock to Mill Park on Saturday, organizations and area businesses that support downtown Augusta are seeing long-term strategies in play.

Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce Chairman and CEO Katie Doherty holds sampler glasses and t-shirts for the Kennebec River Brewfest at the Chamber of Commerce in Augusta on Thursday. The annual festival, now in its fifth year, is one of several events that have helped draw more tourists to Maine’s capital in recent times, according to Doherty. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

It has built a record of success by revitalizing the local economy, drawing attention to the Kennebec River and the capital’s historic downtown.

of Kennebec River BrewfestNow in its fifth year, the event, which starts at noon, is expected to draw between 500 and 800 people.

The Brew Fest showcases products from nearly 20 breweries locally and statewide, along with options from regional wineries and distilleries, food trucks and games.

Katie Dougherty, chairman and chief executive of the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce, said Beer Fest was started five years ago because the market for this type of event was hot, drawing people to downtown Augusta. He said it would be a way to attract. Haven’t been there before or recently to see what it has to offer.

“That’s our way of thinking about events going forward. People are coming back, so it’s going well,” Dougherty said.

She received feedback from local business owners and visitors alike about their interest in the metropolitan area and their subsequent visits to the area.

In 2018, Augusta helped host night stops at The Great Race, an annual rally-style race for vintage and antique cars. The route carried the driver and his support team from Buffalo, New York, through central Maine to Halifax, Nova Scotia. .

“Since then, we’ve had families who have fallen in love with the city and come back every year,” Dougherty said. “They are from Oklahoma.”

The family regularly visited relatives on the coast of Maine, but had never set foot inland into central Maine.

Tasting glasses and souvenir hats from the Kennebec River Brewfest seen at the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce in Augusta on Thursday. Now in his fifth year, the beer festival takes place on Saturday at Millpark. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Brew Fest will be the third major event in less than a month for the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce. On July 15, the organization hosted more than 700 of his people at Millpark for the Kenny Awards, the Chamber’s annual gala. Hundreds of athletes, their families and friends gathered in Capitol Park last weekend for Ironman 70.3.

It’s not always clear whether special events translate into additional sales for local businesses, but Ryan Hill, owner and operator of Wrapped Up Coffee House, said late May and June of this year saw an increase in sales, especially from tourists. said he noticed that his business had recovered and looked at his receipts from last year.

That applies to his other businesses as well. summarynear the Maine State Capitol, where tourist traffic mixes with regulars.

“It’s the only coffee shop (downtown) so I might be biased, but I’m 100% sure it’s almost a go-to spot and the tourist season starts earlier and is stronger than in years past You can,” Hill said.

Tents are set up for Saturday’s Kennebec River Brewfest at Augusta’s Mill Park on Thursday. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Beyond special events, Augusta has been featured in several widely circulated magazines, including Down East, as a destination to visit, he said.

The greatest thing he remembers is the catered lunches he took during the French and Indian Wars for bus tours, including a visit to Old Fort Western, a wooden fort that dates back to 1754. .

“I remember being very stressed because we were already so busy,” he said.

The Augusta Downtown Alliance hosted a unique series of events, including a performance of “I Hate Shakespeare” at Waterfront Park in mid-July and the unveiling of the Sturgeon Stroll at the end of July. Brew Fest isn’t the last downtown event this summer.

Next weekend, the Alliance’s Franco-American Heritage Days begin at Mill Park.

A flight deck brewery salesperson pours a sample at the Kennebec River Brewfest in Augusta’s Mill Park in June 2019. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal File

Michael Hall, executive director of the Augusta Downtown Alliance, said the event is the result of nearly seven months of planning to have bands from both Quebec and Nashville play on August 12 and 13. I said yes.

“This is the first year of the event. We are hosting it in Mill Park because the factory was essential to attracting a large number of French-Americans from Quebec,” says Hall.

Nearly 400 tickets have been sold for this weekend’s Beer Festival, and tickets are still available. Advance purchases are $40, tickets at the gate are $50, and designated driver tickets are $5.

“The river and downtown are assets for the events we do,” says Doherty. “I think Ironman has shown that we can do bigger events, so I hope people expect bigger events from us.”

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