Organizers of the Brewer Riverwalk Festival are already planning next year’s festival after the inaugural celebration on Saturday drew more than 500 attendees.
In addition, local crafters who sold their wares during the event are calling for the festival to become an annual tradition, as Saturday’s event generated widespread business and interest in the city’s downtown.
The daylong celebration of Brewer’s Riverwalk, a mile-long riverfront path, featured food trucks, children’s activities and live performances. Tables holding about 20 local businesses and 20 crafters lined Center Street, and emergency vehicles were also stationed off Penobscot Street for children to explore. Fireworks were also scheduled for Saturday evening but were delayed a day due to impending rain.
Jessica Giles, president of the Brewer Business Alliance, which organized the festival, said the group wasn’t anticipating the high attendance.
“We just wanted to bring the community together,” Giles said. “We haven’t been together as a community for a couple of years now, so it was nice to have everyone together in one spot and just celebrate.”
The city held a smaller, similar festival when the Riverwalk’s first expansion was unveiled in 2019. That event sparked interest in creating an annual event to celebrate the city’s Riverwalk, which has become a source of pride for the community, but the COVID-19 pandemic precluded those plans over the next two years.
Now that the first official Riverwalk Festival has proved a success, Giles said the business alliance wants to make the event “bigger and better every year.”
The Riverwalk Festival was Chris Hathaway and Laura Simonds’ first festival selling their candles after they started their scent-making company, Your Day Just Started, in October 2021.
Hathaway said the pair started making candles and their concrete vessels during the pandemic because they found themselves burning candles frequently and wanted to make their own.
“We thought, ‘If we’re going to be stuck indoors, it might as well smell good,’” Hathaway said.
“Having the creativity of coming up with a business, pouring candles and marketing it has been pretty therapeutic,” Simonds said. “It was stress-relieving to have the scents around and was a creative outlet, too.”
Hathaway and Simonds said they hoped to use the festival as a way to network with local business owners because they would like to sell their products in nearby stores.
They also hoped the festival would give local residents a chance to familiarize themselves with the pair’s products in person.
“It can be hard to buy scented things online,” Simonds said.
The pair said they’d encourage Brewer to make the Riverwalk Festival an annual event.
“It’s a great location, easy to access and a great way to celebrate small businesses from any industry,” Simonds said. “It has been a joy to be here.”
Aimee Young of Carmel, founder of Beads by Aimee, sold her beaded jewelry and home decor during the festival. Young said she didn’t know what to expect but was impressed by how many people attended the festival considering it’s a relatively new event.
Young said early June is a good time to hold a summer festival because most other festivals don’t happen until July and August, yet “early summer is really when people want to start getting out.”
The festival offered a chance for residents and visitors to check out Brewer’s small downtown, she said.
“Especially during COVID-19 people were walking so much, so I think this is a good way to show people what’s in this part of Brewer,” Young said. “There are things out on Wilson Street, but there’s so much more here that people don’t even know exists.”