FREEPORT — Once L.L. Bean replaced a parking lot with a park in the center of the campus 20 years ago, it was a great place to put a stage for concerts.

The summer concert series was born, a way for L.L. Bean to leverage the new green space between the flagship store and the home store, said spokesman Eric Smith. 

Two decades later, the concerts in Discovery Park draw a strong following from Mainers and those visiting the state. Smith said many come to Maine just for the concerts Saturday nights at 7:30 p.m.

This year the park has been redeveloped with a number of changes. Smith said the stage remains but the landscaped hill known as the “berm” has been leveled out to allow more people to sit and enjoy the concerts. 

The concerts are still the heart of the “Summer in the Park” program, Smith said, “but starting last year, we really wanted to ask the question, what else can we do in the park besides concerts that were different days of the week, but also different times of the day. 

“So that’s how we brought in Yoga in the Park we’re doing three three days a week — Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.,” he said.

The program is also free to the public, and drew tremendous excitement and participation last year.

Also new last year was the movie nights on Friday nights, which L.L. Bean has brought back. They are family-friendly events that bring people together. The films range from classics like “The Goonies” to “Finding Dory,” “Beauty and the Beast” and the new animated Pixar film “Coco.” 

To add to the atmosphere, “we brought the food trucks in on Friday night,” Smith said. The trucks arrive at 6 p.m. The films begin at dusk so start times vary.

The company’s brand experience team has fun planning the “Summer in the Park” program, Smith said. The team works with some outside partners, especially to book the artists, a process that takes months and months. To have such a range of artists on such a range of dates is quite an operation.

“One of the things we’ve had really tremendous success with is such a wide variety of genres of music and we have a crowd that responds to many different types of music here in Maine and beyond,” he said. “We certainly get people that travel specifically for the concert, or happens to be visiting Maine already and they hear about this. And some people actually plan their annual vacation to Maine based on the concert schedule to make sure they’re here for whatever concert they want to go to.”

Organizers aim for variety over the course of the season. There are also weekend festivals in August from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For the second year the park was home to the Camp Sunshine Watermelon Festival on Aug. 11, which featured watermelon carving, a seed spitting contest, games and music. The event raised money for Camp Sunshine, a retreat for children with life-threatening illnesses, and their families. 

The same weekend was the “Amazing Place Adventure Race” to benefit the American Cancer Society. Contestants navigate their way through Freeport to discover clues and complete challenges, including physical competitions, brain-teasers and more.

New to the park this year is the Teens To Trails Life Happens Festival, which began two years ago at another location. Scheduled for Aug. 18, the festival involves a whole day of activities focused on teens and young adults, and getting them outside and active.

The Dog Days of August has happened for years and returns Aug. 25-26, featuring DockDogs to support shelter pets.

“People love to bring their dogs to L.L. Bean,” Smith said. “L.L. Bean is a very strongly identified brand and we’ve partnered with Coastal Humane Society for years for their fundraiser, but then we’ve added a number of activities to compliment that, including DockDogs and that’s been enormously popular.”

There’s a big tank of water with professional dock jumping dogs competing in the long jump, high jump and timed retrieval events. People can bring their own dogs to participate as well.

“Summer in the Park” wraps up on Labor day weekend with a performance by pop rock band “The Fray,” which Smith said is expected to draw a large crowd. 

L.L. Bean invests in offering the array of events to the public for free, which Smith said brings people to the store, “but really the payoff for us is continuing to promote L.L. Bean as a brand that is specifically an outdoor brand and we want as much as possible of what we do to be connected to the outdoors and that means bringing people outside in a whole variety of venues — with our Outdoor Discovery programs getting people out on the water or trail or just people coming and sitting and enjoying the evening together on the law.”

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