Sunaana is a music and craft beer festival that took place in Portland, Maine. It offered to deliver a creative experience that would elicit feelings of discovery while embracing all elements of Portland’s identity. I was on hand to capture the awesomeness from the two day festival and wanted to share my experience, the people I met, plus the food of Portland, Maine.
Let’s start at the beginning.
I got a phone call at 4 pm on Thursday that said, “Are you up for an adventure?” Naturally I was.
My mission was to go to Portland, Maine on Friday, leaving on a 7:45 am flight out of Chicago and arriving in Boston. From there I would hop a train, the Sunaana Express, to Portland (which is a 2.5 hour jaunt) where I would document my experience at the Sunaana Festival over the next two days. I would then fly back to Chicago on Sunday Night.
Fast forward to noon eastern time and I’ve arrived to find out I’m one of only two flights to make it in to Boston that day thanks to a massive storm which is hitting the east coast. I consider myself lucky and know this is a good sign that I’m about to have a great adventure.
I now find my way through the pouring rain to TD Garden arena, where I’m scheduled to pick up the train to Portland, Maine. While there I run into Gordon Hayward.
It is worth noting that the night before the Penguins were in Boston taking on the Bruins and got smoked 8-4. Being the yinzer I am that did not deter me from rocking my Penguins hat.
I saunter my way to the Sunaana Express and instantly make friends with Joel Thetford, who is our on train entertainment. His guitar playing vibes definitely made the ride more enjoyable.
We arrive in Portland and I’ve got a few hours to kill before Sunaana begins. Since I had never been to Portland before and I was only going to be there for 2.5 days, I wanted to make sure that I experienced the best that the city had to offer. I solicited feedback from my friends on Facebook about what restaurants I should go to while there. Numerous people recommended Eventide and said the Brown Butter Lobster Roll was out of this world so I made that my first stop.
I am only a 5 out of 10 on the “how much do you love lobster scale” but this lobster roll was the bomb dot com. I washed it back with an Allagash, which is one of my favorite beers and is also local to Portland.
After leaving with a smile on my face from ear to ear it was time Sunaana. Heading into this I had no clue what to expect. I also didn’t know a single person at the event as I was flying solo and my contact who set up the trip got stuck in NYC due to the storm. Naturally this was no problem for me as my mindset is to try and make friends with people as quickly as possible. Luckily for me the hospitality at Sunaana was great and the people I met were super friendly.
The crew from The Thirsty Pig would quickly become one of my favorites (which you’ll see in a second.)
As the Founder of Bacon Sports of course I’m in favor of this logo.
The food that was offered at Sunaana was top notch. Little did I know that Eventide would also be at the event. Since I had just eaten there an hour ago I had glowing reviews to share with their crew. I also gave them plenty of dap from the number of people who recommended them (which speaks to the experience and quality that they deliver.)
While chatting them up I mention I have never tried beets before. The reason is because I was never exposed to them growing up, and I always thought they looked weird. They tell me that I must try them and given the positive experience I already had with the Lobster Roll I decide to trust them. They were delicious. Consider me now part of #TeamBeets.
The setting at Sunaana was a combination of food + music + beer + creativity.
On the beer side of things they had these two bars plus a giant Maine Beer Box which served craft beers from 25 breweries.
There was also a VIP area where you could sit back, relax, and get some exclusive suds that you couldn’t find anywhere else.
You had me at “table of cheese.”
Now it’s time for the party to really get started, thanks to the crew from The Thirsty Pig who donned these hot dog themed costumes.
Now lets get to the “people having fun at Sunaana” portion of the experience.
Smiles don’t lie.
One thing that really impressed me about Sunaana was the music. Despite the fact that I had never listened to any of the bands I found the jams to be rocking.
There was a ton of variety.
And a ton of getting down.
And speaking of getting down, midway through the evening in the VIP area there was an aerial ring exhibition.
This was as unexpected as it was impressive.
Thumbs up indeed!
As I round out Day 1 of Sunaana I meet my last friend of the day, Charlie Ely, the Founder of Locally Sauced Burritos.
He talked to me about his entrepreneurial journey and how he was originally an accountant. Then he showed me how the goodness was made.
Charlie then he gave me a burrito, which was beyond delicious. The smile on Charlie’s face mimics the one that I had on mine after meeting him. Awesome dude. Awesome burritos.
Day 2 of Sunaana didn’t start until 4 pm so I had some time to explore Portland, Maine.
The best way that I know how to experience a city is through my stomach, so I hit up Duckfat on recommendation from a friend. I got the House Smoked Brisket Panini + Belgian Fries with Thai Chili Mayo. It was delicious as expected (you’ll notice a common theme.)
I decided to stop by The Press Hotel as I heard it was a cool spot. I was greeted by a crapton of typewriters on the wall.
Shout out to my new friend Moose, who was putting on Sunaana. I asked him, “Why do they call you Moose?” He responded, “Look at me.”
I dug the vibe and attention to detail at The Press Hotel.
Hotel room number level: EXPERT.
After The Press Hotel my next stop was to say what’s up to Sasquatch, who was chilling outside of Bissell Brothers Brewing.
On a Saturday at 2 pm Bissell Brothers was bumping.
I’m a big fan of supporting brands that have personality and a good attention to detail. Bissell Brothers captured my heart with these four NBA Starting Lineup action figures: Grant Hill, Steve Francis, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan.
Now it’s time for Sunaana and not only do I want a beer but I want this hot dog hat.
There was an element of fun in the air and people were ready to get down.
On the right is an ice luge where it would chill your liquor drink. Back in the day I used to buy ice luge’s for parties all the time as they offered a high return on fun.
I was a big fan of the guy in the middle’s Maine shirt. I would later find out when I see him on stage that he was in one of the bands.
Since Day 2 of Sunaana went from 4 pm – 12 am and I had more restaurants on my list to hit up, I popped out for a hot minute around 5:30 pm to grab a bite to eat. Solo Italiano was recommended to me as one of the best Italian restaurants in Portland.
HOLY SMOKES BATMAN! Never in my life has something so unassuming turned out to be so spectacular. I’m not exaggerating when I say this Mandilli al Vero Pesto Genovese (aka handkerchief pasta with pesto) would end up being the best pasta that I have ever eaten in my life. For real. Best. Ever.
This is the owner of the restaurant. He talked to me about the history of the restaurant and the process for how he makes the pasta. If you are in Portland, Maine then eating at Solo Italiano is a must.
Now it’s back to Sunaana where the party vibes are in full effect.
What made Day 2 of Sunaana different from the first day was a wider variety of musical acts. There might have been twenty performers on stage during this set.
Smiles don’t lie.
Like the night before the aerial ring performer was back dazzling the crowd.
She wasn’t the only performer as during the end of one of the musical sets a ballet performance broke out.
The last time I saw someone in this position I was watching Monday Night RAW.
Let’s check in with the guys from Eventide to see what they think about that performance.
As Sunaana winded down and I look back at my experience over the two days a few things stand out to me. I was beyond impressed with the food at both the event (like this Mr Tuna roll) as well as in the city. I know I mentioned it often but it’s worthy repeating. Portland is great for people who love to eat good.
The other is how nice everyone in Portland was, both at the event and in the city. Smiles and conversation was plentiful, which was much appreciated considering I didn’t know anyone.
Shout out to my man Rob, who was pouring at the Maine Beer Box both days. Not only does he have an awesome first name but I’m a big fan of his Johnny Depp look and funky shirt.
This security guy and I chopped it up a ton as he was right in front of the area where I’d take pictures of the musical acts. He was a cool cat.
Finally, shout out to my man Garrett who was attending Sunaana with his girlfriend Allie. He offered me a friendly home base to chat for when I wasn’t dancing and bopping around. My Sunaana experience was definitely an enjoyable one and I’m glad that I had the opportunity to attend.