Freeport Fall Festival was established in 1999 by FreeportUSA (association of local business leaders) with the aim to draw attention to the area and its merchants. The local association has ballooned to over 150 members including restaurants, stores, attractions and lodging providers. With an ever increasing amount of local businesses, the Freeport Fall Festival has grown to become one of the Eastern Seaboards premiere festivals. It’s a great celebration of the changing of the seasons as well as showcasing arts, crafts and dining of the Freeport area. Not only is this a great event to stimulate the local economy, but there are multiple groups raising funds for their honorable causes.
The festival takes place on the campus of the world headquarters of L.L.Bean. There is an abundance of room on the campus to hold all the vendors and enough room for visitors to relax without being crowded. This location gives everyone direct access to the L.L.Bean flagship store as wells as the 150 establishments of the FreeportUSA association. With so much to offer visitors, it’s hard to believe that the festival is free to enter with free parking as well! We got the opportunity to interview the festival's Executive Director, Kelly Edwards, about this fun and entertaining event.
RAL: How long has the event being going on and how many people and vendors attend annually?
KE: This will be our 17th Annual Freeport Fall Festival. Both the event and parking are free. We feature over 100 art and food vendors offering plenty of wares and good eats. Last year, we more than doubled our attendance from 14,000 attendees to 36,000+.
RAL: What's the typical demographic makeup of the attendees of the festival?
KE: The Freeport Fall Festival offers something for everyone. We feature a wide array of artists from painters and photographers to jewelers and woodworkers. Food available at the event includes local producer's like FIORE Artisan Olive Oils and Vinegars, and Coastal Maine Popcorn. We also have a “Chowdah Challenge” and “Pizza & Pie for a Purpose” to benefit Freeport Community Services. Many couples and families bring blankets to enjoy live music from L.L.Bean's Discovery Park, featuring some of greater Portland's most popular musical acts like Gunther Brown, Primo Cubano Bellamy Jazz Band and Armies. We have five booths offering free children's activities like our popular bubble tent, face painting, hula hooping and crafts.
RAL: What makes this event unique?
KE: We've dedicated a lot of energy to expanding the event over the last three years. For example, it wasn't too long ago that this event was a one-day affair that featured around 50 artists and no food producers. To add elements every year keeps the event fresh, and guests look forward to coming back to see what else the event will feature. It did not take long for the vendor list and attendee numbers to double in size. Plus, it takes place at the legendary Maine outdoor retailer, L.L.Bean! It's not just a store; it's a destination in itself!
RAL: What can attendees expect for dining?
KE: In addition to the local food producers, the “Chowdah Challenge”, and “Pizza & Pie for a Purpose”, Freeport has some great dining options within walking distance to L.L.Bean. 1912 Cafe is located in the L.L.Bean Flagship store and features organic soups and sandwiches. Coffee By Design is also located in L.L.Bean and has award winning coffee, teas, cider and more. Linda Bean has two restaurants on the perimeter of Discovery Park, and two doors down from L.L.Bean is Azure Cafe where cuisine is prepared by the Maine Chef of the Year, Christopher Bassett. Stirling & Mull will be celebrating Oktoberfest and should definitely be added to the list of places to visit during the weekend!
RAL: Our travelers are a segment of the market that seek out unique, mom & pop accommodations… is this what they will find when they come to your event?
KE: Absolutely! Freeport is home to many charming B&B's within walking distance to the event. The list includes The James Place Inn Bed & Breakfast, The Nicholson Inn, The White Cedar Inn, The Brewster House Bed & Breakfast, Candlebay Inn, The Village Inn and Kendall Tavern Inn Bed & Breakfast. Maine Idyll Motor Court offers quaint cottages in the woods just north of town and the family-owned, 93-room Harraseeket Inn offers upscale accommodations in the center of town while offering two wonderful restaurants onsite.
RAL: Is there maybe one place in particular that guests have been flocking to since the event started?
KE: For this event in particular, guests often book accommodations in the center of town like the Bed & Breakfasts, The Harraseeket Inn and The Hilton Garden Inn. Many of these properties are sold out ahead of the event, but we have additional hotels and inns located within a mile outside of the village like the Casco Bay Inn, The Best Western Plus Freeport Inn, and the newly renovated Super 8 - art enthusiasts will love the new decor that features enlarged black and white photographs of coastal Maine.
RAL: Does lodging hit max occupancy during the event?
KE: I would absolutely recommend making reservations prior to arriving in town for the event. Several hotels are sold out, people looking for lodging recommendations are encouraged to call our office at 207-865-1212. For those not interested in driving, the Amtrak Downeaster stops in the center of town, one block from L.L.Bean and most hotels offer complimentary transportation to and from the station.
RAL: What does the festival mean to the community and which special causes are benefited?
KE: This event was created to celebrate the arts, but also to encourage people to visit during foliage season. With the number of attendees increasing every year, our inns, restaurants and shops all see a boost in business. The Chowdah Challenge and Pizza & Pie for a Purpose raises money for Freeport Community Services. We also sell our reusable 10% Totes for $10. Purchasers of the bag receive 10% off their purchase at 25 Freeport businesses for all of 2015 and 100% of the proceeds from the sales of the totes are donated to the Coastal Humane Society.
RAL: Why should people come to the festival?
KE: The Freeport Fall Festival offers something for everyone, arts, crafts, live music and great food. All within one of Maine's prettiest historical villages. Our community is safe, pedestrian friendly and offers world class shopping, hotels, restaurants and attractions!