The fog didn’t stop the Biddeford and Saco communities from celebrating last year weekend at River Jam and Fringe Fest.
Festivities began Friday night, with local artists and businesses gathered on Main Street and in Shevenell Park for Fringe Fest and the Biddeford ArtWalk.
The “art-smorgasbord” hosted by Engine included music, photography, macramé and even fire performers.
The event focused on bringing the community together, and that was evident through Biddeford Blooms, a community loom project. Attendees were invited to weave recycled materials into the loom as a part of Biddeford’s celebration of its textile history for Maine’s bicentennial. Artist Sarah Haskell is the leader of the weaving project, and it’s made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts and Maine Arts Commission for the Maine Bicentennial.
On Saturday, River Jam Festival brought the twin cities together in Mechanics Park along the Saco River.
Delilah Poupore, director of Heart of Biddeford, said River Jam’s return this year was exciting for the community.
We were so pleased to bring River Jam back this year, after the necessary COVID-19 shut-downs last year,” said Poupore. “I kept hearing from people that both Fringe Fest as well as Saturday’s River Jam festivities were such positive places to be.
A magician performing at Mechanics Park in Biddeford was part of the entertainment at this year’s River Jam on Saturday, Aug. 21.The festival began with featured performances from local dance groups, local musician J boy and local 14 year singer Sarah Patil introduced first time Bollywood on the main stage, a magician, potato sack races and a large slip and slide.
The Biddeford Cultural and Heritage Center held its very first cultural cuisine tent with samples of food from Iraq, Vietnam, Canada and more.
The organizer of the cuisine tents, Debbie Litalien, said the response from the public was very positive, and they ran out of food within the first two hours.
“The food was just wonderful. It was really fun, and we had a good time,” said Litalien. “By 2 p.m., we were out of everything. Next year when we do it again, we’d like to have more food.”
The tents offered food samples ranging from African donuts, Jewish pastries, Iraqi rice dishes and Moroccan pierogis. Litalien said she couldn’t have done it without the help of Sam Smithwick, an English Language Learner (ELL) instructor at Biddeford Adult Education. Together, they found community members who volunteered to share dishes at the event.
Litalien said celebrating the diversity of the city is important.
“When I was growing up, Biddeford was (mostly) white French-Canadian. There was very little diversity,” said Litalien. “And now, it has swung considerably. It’s really wonderful to give people a chance to see that there are so many other people and cultures living within our community.”
Litalien said having the first cultural cuisine tent at River Jam was a win-win and a great way to collaborate with other community organizations.
As the fog rolled in during the evening, people gathered around food trucks and enjoyed the music from JimmyJo and the Jumbol’Ayuhs.
By 9 p.m., a large crowd gathered in Mechanics Park and people lined the Saco River bridge awaiting the fireworks display from La Kermesse.
All eyes were on the sky as the fireworks boomed over the two cities, marking a celebration of the communities safely coming back together.
“One reason why this year was especially successful was the heightened level of cooperation,” Poupore said.” Engine brought out Biddeford’s artistic flair on Friday night with Fringe Fest, Biddeford Cultural & Heritage Center organized amazing Cultural Cuisine tents with local residents, La Kermesse wowed us with fireworks (through the fog!), Biddeford Recreation got people out on the water in canoes, and the board and friends of Heart of Biddeford made all the pieces come together (including that amazing River Rush giant slip and slide). Having so many entities involved increased the ways people found out about the festival, so I think that helped draw a more diverse cross-section of Biddeford.”