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The Kennebunkport Festival: Oceanfront Charm & Luxury

The 2014 Kennebunkport Festival (June 1 – 8) is a showcase of the finest food, wine and art that Maine has to offer. It is not shocking then that this annual festival is held in the picturesque coastal setting of Kennebunkport, a city that has become synonymous with luxury destination travel. Each year, the Kennebunkport Festival offers its 3,000+ guests the chance to experience what Maine is all about: fine dining, unique art collections, beautiful real estate and lodging, and so much more. had the chance to chat with Cyndi Smith, Director of Events and Sponsorships for Maine and Maine Home+Design magazine, the host of the annual festivities. ResortsandLodges asked Cyndi all about the festival and what happens during this unique week long (yes one whole week) experience.

RAL: Kennebunkport is well known for travel and high end accommodations – What is theKennebunkport Festival then?
CS: The Kennebunkport Festival started ten years ago when a group of local innkeepers wanted to create a signature event to kick-off the summer season in June. As the festival grew, the largely volunteer-based producers couldn’t keep up.  It was a good problem to have.  As a result, Maine magazine stepped in as the primary organizer of the weeklong event. We have grown the Festival from a few dinners and private parties, to more than twenty-five in-home dinners, two galas, a huge grand tasting event and a large outdoor concert. So we have taken what was already great and built it into something even better. It is an unforgettable experience for people who want to enjoy the best of Maine in dining and accommodations.

RAL: Who is the primary target audience for the event?
CS: We attract people from the Kennebunks, from around Maine, and nationally.  For each of the past four years, a group of six couples from a Texas wine club have made the trek to Kennebunkport to partake in the Festival. Many of our guests have very strong connections to Maine but there are always many that are experiencing us for the first time.

“There is no other event like this in Maine. We get our guests into private residences that are absolutely stunning with hosts that take personal interest in making the evening memorable.”

RAL: Sounds great…I want to bring my wife out next Summer. What can we expect from the festival?
CS: Well, you can expect to have a ton of fun, and be very welcomed. Our staff of 27 are all very welcoming and outgoing people, and our objective is to make sure you have a fantastic time.

Each evening starts with a cocktail hour from 5 to 7, at various locations around town, and then from there (for the first few nights) is is all about private party dinners. Homeowners open their doors to guests for an incredible dining experience. Dinners range from 12 – 20 guests. The top chefs in Maine, and beyond (this year James Beard winner Jody Adams from Boston’s Rialto is joining us) prepare meals to showoff their talents.  We also invite a wine sommelier to pair all of the food with fine wines. All this activity generates a substantial check to Share our Strength whose mission is to end childhood hunger. Finally, every night ends with an after party that includes live music and dancing for those up for more.

The highlight of the week is Pop the Kennebunks that is produced by Bettina Doulton from Cellardoor Winery. It is an amazing under-tent party for 400 people.  This year the live music will be by a phenomenal band from Austin Texas, Matchmaker. This year’s theme is Moroccan Marrakesh complete with belly dancers. Bettina’s events always sell out, so you’ll need to order your tickets now.

RAL: What do you think makes this festival so unique…other than what we have discussed already?
CS: It’s in Maine and kicks off the amazing Maine summer season.  It’s a time of year where we see people emerging from winter, second homeowners returning, and summer visitors begin to make plans.  The collective energy of this group is difficult to describe.  But, you’ll experience old friends reuniting after not seeing each other for months and will be pulled into the conversation as new friends very quickly.  All of this with the quintessential Maine coastal town backdrop of Kennebunkport.