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Updated: February 12, 2024

'Bandit' and his legacy get Valentine's Day love from Portland businesses

Rising Tide brewery with a heart in front Courtesy / Rising Tide Brewing Co. Portland's Rising Tide Brewing Co. will host an auction and raffle Wednesday for the newly created Fahrman Foundation, which honors the memory and legacy of the late Kevin Fahrman, the city's longtime Valentine's Day bandit until his death last year. This flag appeared at Rising Tide on the love-themed holiday a few years ago.

For Portland’s first Feb. 14 without visits from its long-famed Valentine's Day "bandit," individuals and businesses are carrying on his legacy of giving and caring.

Kevin Fahrman, a graphic artist and sailor devoted to community causes, died suddenly on April 20, 2023, at age 67. Only after his death was his identity revealed as the superhero who festooned Portland storefronts, office buildings and hard-to-access sites like Fort Gorges with heart displays every Valentine’s Day eve.

Photo / Renee Cordes
This “Be a Kevin” sign was spotted on the door of Speckled Ax, on Portland’s East End.

This year, his family is encouraging everyone in the community to “Be a Kevin” by downloading Fahrman's familiar heart design from a dedicated website and then spreading his message in their own way.

Even before Valentine’s Day, some offices and storefronts are already displaying hearts and “Be a Kevin” signs. 

“There’s always been a large community that did the ‘banditing,’ it wasn’t just my dad doing it,” Sierra Fahrman told Mainebiz in a phone interview.

Just as her father took over the bandit-ringleader role from his predecessor, she is sure that others will continue the tradition this year and well beyond.

“It’s such a part of Portland, that no matter what, I think someone will always be incentivized to carry it on,” she said. 

To carry on her father’s commitment to local charities, she and her mother, Patti Urban, have created the nonprofit Fahrman Foundation. 

Launch event 

The foundation's “Be A Kevin” website is offering a limited-edition fine-art map of Portland available for purchase, with a portion of the proceeds going to area nonprofits. Urban created the map with Donna Stackhouse showing landmarks "marked" by the bandit over the years. 

On Valentine's Day itself, the foundation is organizing a kickstart auction and raffle at Rising Tide Brewing Co. to raise proceeds for organizations close to Fahrman's heart, including SailMaine and Friends of Fort Gorges. The “night of fun” takes place from 5-8 p.m., featuring Fahrman’s favorite music and a live auction at 6:30 p.m.

“It’s a way to bring people together to mourn him but also to celebrate him,” said Sierra Fahrman, who has found the response from the business community to be “super positive.”

Sea Bags heart motif tote
Photo / Sierra Fahrman
A donation from Sea Bags for Wednesday's event.

Donations include a slew of hotel and restaurant vouchers and a heart-themed tote bag from Sea Bags.

“Our crew at Sea Bags always looked forward to coming to our workshop and store on Valentine’s Day to see the hearts that the Valentine’s Bandit left for us and throughout the city,” Sea Bags CEO Don Oakes told Mainebiz.

“Through his actions, Kevin brought so much joy to the people of Portland over the years, without fanfare or credit — like a true Mainer. He will be missed by many, but through the work of this foundation, his legacy will continue.”

‘Thrilled to help’

Meanwhile in East Bayside, Rising Tide co-owner and operations director Heather Sanborn said the crew expects a big crowd Wednesday evening.

“We’ll have the fire pits lit and we’re clearing out the furniture a bit to allow for more space,” she said.

On a more personal note, “I was lucky enough to know Kevin for many years — my son and his daughter sailed together growing up and he was a tireless volunteer," she said.

"He was truly one of the most generous people I've ever met. He took amazing photos of Rising Tide, of the sailors at SailMaine, and even did some headshots for me along the way, usually refusing payment for all of it.”

Like many people who knew Fahrman, Sanborn said she had no idea of his alter ego as the Valentine’s Day Bandit until after he died.

“When I learned that he was the one behind all those hearts, I was not the least bit surprised and even more glad that I'd gotten to know him and spend time with him in life,” Sanborn said. “We are thrilled to help his family get the Fahrman Foundation off the ground.”

More information

The Fahrman Foundation's Valentine's Day kickstart auction and raffle will take place this Wednesday from 5-8 p.m. at Rising Tide Brewing Co.,  103 Fox St., Portland. More information is available here.

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