Published Date Written by Craig LyonsIf there's one thing that Portland Downtown District Events Coordinator Will Ethridge is looking forward to about Old Port Festival, it's 11 a.m. on Sunday.
"At that point I'll essentially just enjoy the festival with everyone else," he said.
By the time the festival has started, Ethridge, the other staff at PDD and the event's sponsors and volunteers have concluded the months of planning that go into coordinating Portland's largest event. To get ready for the six-hour festival, planning, in some cases, starts nearly a year in advance.
Ethridge said once January rolls around and PDD has gotten past its big winter events, they're ready to start focusing on the city's largest festival.
"That really becomes the focus," he said.
For PDD, Ethridge said, the process starts with mailing out vendor applications and rounding up sponsors. He said the stage sponsors are the ones who line up the entertainment and then work with PDD for permits and other details.
Ethridge said putting together the festival really requires the cooperation between PDD, the sponsors and the city agencies.
"It's not just the effort of PDD," he said, and it's really a city-wide collaboration.
While the PDD starts to focus on the Old Port Festival six months beforehand, the group behind three music stages needs to start much earlier.
Cary Pahigian, president of the Portland Radio Group, said getting ready for the Old Port Festival is a 364-day process, though after many years, it's getting a bit easier.
"It's getting more comfortable each year," he said, though it's now become a situation where the radio group tries to out-do themselves each year.
The Old Port Festival is a huge event, said Pahigian, and it's a chance for the radio stations to interact with listeners.
"It's one of the most important things we do," he said.
Given the importance of the event, Pahigian said, it's tough to tell when one festival ends and the planning for the next starts.
"It's always going on," he said, and the planning starts almost immediately after the previous Old Port Festival ends.
The Portland Radio Group has three stages at the Old Port Festival and a number of smaller venues that they're hosting.
"There's a lot of moving parts," Pahigian said.
Pahigian said the stations' staff coordinate the technical pieces, the personnel, vendors and everything that's needed for the festival.
Crunch time for the festival preparation comes about two weeks beforehand, said Pahigian, but the day or two before is pretty low key since it's just a matter then of making a few minor adjustments here and there.
"The most exciting part is the announcement of the acts," he said.
Pahigian said once the previous Old Port Festival has wrapped up and been reviewed, the whole process starts again. He said the staff starts going through the lists to line up tools, stages, contractors and artists so a schedule can be compiled.
"There are so many hundreds of details," he said.
But as Portland Radio Group is reaching the tail-end of its preparations, PDD and the other sponsors are just kicking into high gear.
Ethridge said the planning process starts to take on a whole new life once April rolls around.
With all the vendors starting to send in applications, Ethridge said the permitting process for them starts and sometimes involves both the city and state. He said there's also permitting that's required for the other events during the Old Port Festival like the children's activities, the parade and closing down streets.
"There's definitely a lot of paperwork," he said.
Because the festival's been running for such a long time, Ethridge said, much of the permitting and paperwork can be done quickly since PDD has a good relationship with the various city offices.
Even with all the planning, Ethridge said right up until the festival starts, people are still calling with questions.
The two weeks before the festival are the craziest, Ethridge said, because that's when all the deadlines are set.
Right before the festival starts, the devil is in the details.
"There's quite a bit to do for the final preparations," Ethridge said.
In the final hours, Ethridge said, it's all about marking off spaces for the vendors, making sure the sponsors have everything they need and taking care of any problems that pop up.
Fortunately, Ethridge said, he's got multiple checklists to make sure that all the tasks to get ready for the festival are done.
"If there wasn't, then there would be a problem," he said.
While it will be nice to get past all the planning and organizing, Ethridge said he's most looking forward to seeing the crowds in the Old Port.
"The people that come in really gives the festival its energy," he said.