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The "Other" Portland

On a recent vacation, I had the opportunity to visit Portland. No not the west coast Portland that everyone is talking about in regards to Cincinnati’s Issue 9, but rather the east coast Portland. During a week spent mostly in mid-coast Maine, I took some time to drop in on Portland to see what that city had to offer. With a metro population of 230,000 it is rather small compared to what we are used to here in Cincinnati, but it is home to one quarter of all residents in Maine. I honestly was not expecting too much, but was rather surprised by what I found.

Being a coastal town, I did think that this would be a city center full of shops and dinners that catered to Maine tourists and took advantage of their geographic location. I had pictured lobster flavored beer and lighthouses on doormats. But, much to my surprise what I found instead was a city block after city block of eclectic shops and independent restaurants. As I spent my evening wandering around shops and stopping off for dinner and drinks, I thought “this is exactly what OTR could be given a chance” and an UrbanCincy post was born.

The biggest thing that jumped out was that Portland seemed to have was a unified vision of what they wanted in this area. It could have been tacky t-shirt shops and chain restaurants. They could have promoted tear-downs and rebuilds to bring a more modern feel to the town. Instead funky shops, boutiques, and art galleries lined the street and used old buildings that had clearly been in downtown Portland for quite a while. While I was there on a Wednesday night in what is the start of the off-season, there was a good amount of people out and about enjoying themselves.

If nothing else Portland, Maine has an identity, and that is something that our area desperately seems to be searching for. It is my opinion that with a streetcar, a successful Banks project, and continued development on the river in Northern Kentucky we will have one that is appealing to long time residents, local college students, and outsiders that may consider Cincinnati as a place to live. The photos above are a small sampling of the establishments around downtown Portland.


World Music Fest takes place this weekend in Covington

There’s something happening on the south side of downtown Cincinnati this weekend that is worth some attention as the World Music Fest runs all weekend at multiple venues through the heart of Covington. This event is part of the Covington Full Spectrum series which has something artsy going each and every weekend through the entire month of October.

This is the third annual World Music Fest, and while you may be saying “I’ve never heard of a World Music Fest in the Cincinnati area”, that’s probably because it’s never been as ambitious and as large as it is going to be this year. In prior years there was just a single concert in Newport but this year there will be more than 40 performances at seven different venues around Covington over the course of the entire weekend.

We have linked the entire schedule for you here, but wanted to take the time to point out a few highlights of the weekend:

  • Friday Oct 16, 6-10pm – A VIP mixer at the Baker Hunt Cultural Center which features food, wine, and live music by Faux Frenchmen and Kyle Ferguson. While the cost may be $30, aside from just this kick off mixer, it also gets you into the Global Afterparty (Oct 17), the show at the Madison (Oct 18), and two tickets to a CCM performance. Think of your ticket to this event as your passport for the weekend.
  • Saturday Oct 17, 9am-3pm – Come kickoff the day European style with a complimentary breakfast from the good people at Taste of Belgium and our friends from Coffee Emporium. Music will run until 1pm, but there is a Kids Zone that goes all the way to 3pm with story tellers, workshops, and children’s entertainers.
  • Saturday Oct 17, Noon-6:30pm – Over at the Leapin Lizard on Main Street is a Moroccan-style Bazaar with vendors and two stages of live music. While there will be a mix of genres, there is an emphasis on Middle Eastern music. This one is a freebie as well, though there is an afterparty at Leapin Lizard from 9pm-Midnight which will cost you $5.
  • Sunday Oct 18, 5pm-10:30pm – The main event of World Music Fest is a full night’s worth of tunes at the Madison. Headliner Javier Mendoza has quite a résumé including appearing alongside acts as diverse as Willy Nelson, Los Lobos, and even The Roots. While the others are mainly local acts at $12 advance (or free if you went to the VIP party!) this is a great deal any way you look at it.

Nearly everything throughout the weekend is free admission aside from a the few events that we’ve outlined here so be curious and get out to see some great music from all around the world in your own backyard. In the meantime you’ll be supporting some great businesses in Covington that have decided to take part World Music Fest 2009.


Farmer’s Fair in Covington 9/26 – 9/27

As if we all didn’t have enough going on this weekend, another fun and interesting place to check out in the urban core is Farmers Fair at the base of the Roebling Suspension Bridge in Covington this coming Saturday & Sunday.

This first annual event features a kickoff party on Saturday evening which will include food & drinks for sale and a party atmosphere up until 9pm that night. While there is a lot of fun to be had on Saturday, Sunday truly seems to be the main event with many local farmers showing up with their food for sale. There will also be other entertainment and many guest speakers throughout the day running from 11am – 5pm.

Stop over and support a unique local gathering which promotes local food and local farmers all in an urban environment in the heart of Covington. Headed to PBS to catch the Bengals game? You could easily stop by and get your fixin’s at Farmers Fair and then enjoy a great tailgate prior to the big game.

Photo by Scott Beseler

Arts & Entertainment News

MPMF Is Here

By this point, everyone is aware that the 9th annual MidPoint Music Festival hits downtown Cincy this Thursday, September 24 through Saturday, September 26. Instead of giving you something you could get elsewhere, we thought we’d provide you links to a few pages that may help narrow down the 270 bands there are to choose from.

When was the last time you had 270 choices as to how to spend three evenings? Well, since 270 is a lot to choose from, we give you the MPMF homepage at CityBeat as a jumping off point. Check out the CityBeat homepage and go through the bands alphabetically; stop and listen to a few bands there but make sure to explore some on MySpace. If you do nothing else, our recommendation is that you pay special attention to the DIG lines in the description as CityBeat does their best job to point you in the right direction.

Still too much work? There are some recommendations out there, including some from our friends at EachNoteSecure here, here, here, and my very own preview here. There will be a ton more MPMF news posted in the coming days, so make sure you keep an eye on their homepage.

As you can tell there is a ton to choose from and the $29 wristband is quite a deal for three nights of music. What does $29 get you? The wristband allows you to jump in any one of the sixteen Scion Streetcars to get around town all weekend. It also allows you to go from venue to venue as many times as you want without additional charge. Truly at a cost of less than $10 a night, the wristband provides flexibility and value that are well worth the price if you plan on going all weekend or even just two of the three nights. However, there are plenty of other options including paying at the door of each venue or even free shows on Fountain Square each night over the course of the weekend. (Fountain Square shows feature bands that are playing throughout the rest of the weekend and are a true steal!)

Texts to 4632 from Cincinnati Bell Wireless accounts, and tweets using the #MPMF hash tag on Twitter or messages posted on the site will be displayed on Web-enabled monitors in festival venues, on a projection of the site on the facade of Grammer’s and on the Fountain Square video board. If you want to get a steady stream of updates be sure to follow @MidPointMusic, @MetromixCincy, and @CincyBlog on Twitter to get festival updates throughout the weekend.

Looking forward to seeing you around town this weekend. Enjoy the music! We are all lucky and better off to have it all right here in front of us for the taking!

Photo by Flickr user thadd…read his blog here.


Oktoberfest Kommt

Of course, you can’t expect UrbanCincy to skip over one of the biggest parties of the year can you? Oktoberfest is upon us as six blocks of downtown Cincinnati will be transformed into the largest German party this side of Munich on Saturday & Sunday. Reminding our readers to find their way down would be very simple, but hopefully you’ve come to expect a little more than that from us here.

First off, Oktoberfest Zinzinnati, as it officially called, has received large amounts of critical acclaim through the years. In the past both USA Today and have ranked our version of this German party as one of the best festivals in the country, and this year DigitalCity says we are number one! While DigitalCity may not be the most mainstream outlet out there, isn’t awfully nice to know that yet again Cincinnati is garnering the respect and attention it deserves?

Think Oktoberfest is just a time to come down and wander through the streets while sipping a cold one? Think again! There are all kinds of activities planned for the weekend including a few lead up events on Fountain Square both Thursday and Friday over the lunch hour. Additionally this year there is the HYPE Haus Party, which does cost a bit of money for entry but looks to be a great time as it includes both a beer sampling, and a light buffet among other things.

So now you know the critical acclaim, as well as all the other activities that go along with Oktoberfest Zinzinnati, but what is probably most important is that this weekend 500,000 people will descend on what we know is an urban city center that is supremely different than it was even a year or two ago. For all of the positive press that Cincinnati has received, and all the work that has been done, this should really be a time to show off and have a great time with half a million of our closest friends! Those of us that are strong and vocal advocates for all that has been happening should make sure that we get the story out and help everyone else see all the great things going on around outside the mini-Munich on Fifth Street that will be there for two days.

What else do you need to know? Well, make sure you bring an appetite as tons of food will be served and more than a few beers will be poured so don’t forget to come thirsty too. And oh yeah, keep an eye out for native son Jim Koch of Sam Adams fame, TV’s biggest beer man, from Cheers it’s George Wendt, and some guy named Homer will be around too. Prost!

Oktoberfest photo by Jayson Gomes of Cincy Images.