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Maine entertainment leaders see a brighter future with concerts and events

The future of Maine's entertainment industry is uncertain, but Maine venues are ready to start hosting smaller events and concerts.

MAINE, USA — People in the entertainment business hope the pieces fall into place to allow some traditional concerts, fairs, and events to happen later this year.

The pandemic has made us nostalgic for attending a concert, walking through a fair, or enjoying some other big event. After such a dark year for the entertainment industry, many Maine venues, such as the Bangor Waterfront Pavilion, the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor, and the Augusta Civic Center, to name a few, are thinking outside the box to bring back some sort of social events as soon as guidelines for mass gatherings ease up.

At Bangor's Cross Insurance Center, the General Manager Tony Vails said he sees light at the end of the tunnel for smaller concerts, events, and sports gatherings.

"We started doing some outdoor small concerts at the end of last summer, we are going to pick that back up when the weather breaks, and really get into a pretty full schedule of doing those almost every week if we can, so that would be an outdoor portion and we are looking for other outdoor events, anything we can do outside because there is probably a little bit more of an openness," Vail said.

Vail is hopeful larger indoor events at the Cross Insurance Center will pick up this fall, he said there is a lot of uncertainty and not too many answers coming from state officials on decisions to ease up the number of people that can be in one place at the same time.

"We could use our spaces in a  functional manner that works for them and it starts to slowly bring back some of the events that we want to do, meetings, weddings, small indoor shows, you name it," Vail said.

Later this year, live music could start playing again at Darling's Waterfront Pavillion in Bangor, but first state guidelines for mass gatherings have to ease up. 

"One, we need people to take the vaccine when it's offered to them, two, obviously need heavy amounts of supply, three, we need the state administration to say that's okay," said Alex Gray from the Waterfront Concerts in Maine. "So I think there are going to be artists that want to work, there are going to be artists that need to work so we might be able to make that math work, but it may not be with the artists that are the biggest artists."

"We have to think outside the box, and that's a lot of what I spend my time doing, just thinking what are the kind events that we can look at, whether it's looking at local community events," Vail said.

Vail furloughed most of his staff, his hopeful the arena can start doing events that could generate some much-needed revenue.

"It's been one of the worse if not the worse revenue year, that many facilities in the country have had to go through," said Vail.

Earl Kingsbury is the director of the Augusta Civic Center, he believes state guidelines for mass gatherings could loosen up this fall.

"I still think we can offer some of the conferences and conventions safely that we have had in the past but when it comes to the concerts and large events? 5-6 thousand people? that's going to take longer," said Kingsbury. "As restrictions loosen up, and people become vaccinated, I think in the fall I am hopeful that restrictions will loosen up."

Kingsbury said Sawyer Brown is on the agenda for May 16. "To be quite honest with you, I don't see that happening at all and we will probably end rescheduling that," said Kingsley.

The Cross Insurance Center and the Augusta Civic Center are both serving as mass vaccination sites in Maine, but they have additional space to host separate events while the vaccination efforts continue. 

Kingsley says despite all, the Augusta Civic Center is still doing what it was designed to do. "It's still bringing people from outside of the community in, whether it's a vaccination clinic or a legislative session, where they may after they get their vaccination may go to a restaurant here and have something to eat," Kingsley said.

Gray says 15,000 people fit at the Darling's Waterfront Pavilion in Bangor. His team might consider doing concerts with just  25% if the artists are willing to play with a reduced audience and for a less fare. 

"If we could run at 20% I think we'd make a good effort, or 25% we'd make a good effort," said Gray.

Many variables to consider, including consumer confidence, easing state guidelines, the timeline of when concerts can kick-off again, but It all come's down to the restrictions set forth by Maine state officials.

"We need a certain number of people to show up, we have to start at a certain time, we've got curfews, those achievable metrics and times are things we need to be successful and we don't have that," said Gray.

Old and young, many want to get back to being social and experience music and what Maine has to offer including popular fairs, concerts, and events.