“The beauty of our event is that ninety-five-plus percent of the attendees will be enjoying these activities in the great outdoors,” says Brian Corcoran, founder and president of Portland’s Shamrock Sports and Entertainment, which is sponsoring Carnaval Maine.
The event will take place February 17 through February 26 on the Eastern Promenade in Portland. “We’re a sister event to Carnaval Quebec, showcasing Maine as a state for all seasons, including ice sculptures, live music, food, drink, and so many great events!” Brian explained. To lessen concerns about COVID-19, most of the events will be held outdoors. Brian, along with the many hands that are helping to make this event happen, are continuing to monitor community health as that is their first and foremost focus. Proof of vaccination or an approved, authorized negative test from forty-eight hours beforehand will be required before attending the event.
Carnaval will be a week packed full of exciting and engaging activities. Kicking off the festivities is the Fire & Ice Gala on Thursday the 17th. “It is a fundraising event for our beneficiary, WinterKids, one of the largest nonprofits serving children with a focus on outdoor programming when really kids need it. They provide both the programming and the gear and free community access to kids of all ages across the state.” said Brian. In 2020, Carnaval raised $25,000 for WinterKids and are looking to double that amount this year.
The following night, the Carnaval’s opening ceremony will feature a firework demonstration that will rival those displayed on the Fourth of July. Taking the stage that is one of Maine’s favorite bands, The Ghost of Paul Revere. “We’ve got our snow stage, which will be a large performance stage with sound and lighting on the Eastern Prom. Anything from live music performances, theatricals, comedy, a wonderful, diverse lineup of entertainment. Throughout the week, we have people like Scotty McCreery. We’re calling it Carnaval Goes Country.” said Brian.
Other events include live ice sculptures, bonfires, face painting and more! Thursday, February 24th is going to be Senior Day at Carnaval, where it is a buy one ticket, get one free for any senior fifty-five plus. All the programming will be focused on arts and events that will be attractive to the senior audience.
This event would not happen without the support of what Brain calls their “corporate snow angels.” The four presenting partners include Norway Savings, L.L. Bean, Nautilus Solar, and WEX, whom Brian’s wife, Melissa Smith, is the CEO. An extended list of sponsors, featuring more than twenty-five Maine businesses, can be seen on Carnaval’s website carnavalme.com. “They each support certain things, like Norway Savings Bank is the sponsor of the snow stage. Nautilus Solar sponsors of our rail jam experience with Sunday River. And then we have WEX doing a workforce attraction, which we call the coolest job fair on earth. Then our friends at L.L. Bean are partnering with WinterKids to do outdoor activities that will keep kids and families having fun and busy throughout Carnaval.” said Brian.
Corcoran’s life has focused on sports and sports marketing since he traveled from his Old Orchard Beach home to Eastern Kentucky University. “During my junior year, I realized I was not going to be an Olympic athlete. I realized there was this thing called sports marketing and sports business. So right out of college, I became the guy doing all the halftime shows at the basketball and football games. It has been a lot of fun.” said Brian. Brain has worked for twenty-five years as a sports and entertainment executive at places like Live Nation and NASCAR. Before he launched Shamrock, he was with the Boston Red Sox. Brian launched Carnaval in 2020, at the end of January, where they featured three “Bites and Brew” sessions featuring Maine chefs and craft brewers. This year, Corcoran says excitedly, “We’ll go to eight sessions. And we’ll definitely make this an annual event, and it will be synonymous with school break week each February.”
“I had gone to three Carnaval’s in Quebec in my twenties and thirties, and then more recently. And I just said, with all the great growth in Maine, we have so much to offer throughout the state. And so, it’s just one plus one equals three, as they say. We said, hey, what a fantastic opportunity to showcase Maine in the winter.”
They began conversations with Sunday River and started talking to bands and musicians about live music. Today, Carnaval is turning into an annual event that tourists and natives alike look forward to.
“We got those snowballs started downhill, but there is a lot of people who should take credit and will take credit for Carnaval. It’s not a Shamrock thing. Hopefully, if we are doing this right, a few years from now we’ll wake up and like Quebec, the entire state will embrace the Carnaval.”
To learn more about this event, please visit carnavalme.com.