BANGOR, Maine — The sunshine, music, food and fashion were like a magnet Saturday, drawing people from all over the region to downtown for the second annual West Market Festival.
The free event, organized by Bangor residents John Gillis and Chas Bruns, brought together 21 local and regional bands and local vendors, and was headlined by the eight-piece funk-rock powerhouse Rustic Overtones.
“It’s not quite as good as the folk festival, but it’s not bad,” Hampden resident John MacLeod said while enjoying a barbecue sandwich in the center of Merchants Plaza, which was closed off for vendors.
Several of the performers were Bangor-based, including the Irish rock band the Barstuards, which also performed last year, lead singer Andrew Koncinsky said just after getting off the West Market Square stage.
Last year’s performance “was almost our first gig,” he said. “Last year, we didn’t know how we were going to fill up half an hour. This year, we had to cut it down from three hours.”
Onstage with Koncinsky were Gary Collins, Connor Oyster, Brian Oyster and Justus McGee. Koncinsky said this year’s event “seems like two to three times the size.”
With twice as many as bands and two stages, there was twice the fun, said Krystle Sisco, who brought her 3-year-old daughter, Alyx Frazell, to the festival.
“We came last year and it’s great,” she said of this year’s event. “There was a lot more awareness [of the festival]. We never have this kind of stuff in Bangor. It’s kind of exciting.”
While six of the nine bands that played on the West Market Square stage were performing, area clothing shops provided fashion shows on a wooden walkway that extended from the stage out into the crowd.
GapKids, American Retro, Bella Luna, Hybrid Couture, Charlotte Russe and The Gap had models on the catwalk throughout the day.
On the Pickering Square stage, 11 acts, which included bands, cloggers and solo artists, performed.
Brewer residents Allison Bankston and Gaylen Smith brought along a mat to sit on as they listened to Payson Nichols play guitar and sing on the Pickering Square stage.
“He’s performing his own music,” Bankston said. “He’s done a few covers, but most of it is his own.”
Nichols also performs with Smith and others in an Irish band called the Galley Rats that performs locally, Bankston said.
While folks enjoyed the music, local businesses also fared well. The Whig & Courier Pub set up an outdoor bar and expanded its outdoor seating area, which seemed to be filled to capacity during most of the daylong festival.
Across the square, Paddy Murphy’s also was packed and had its upstairs bar open. People could be seen looking out windows to get a view of the crowd and performers.
The Bahaar Restaurant served Pakistani food along the closed Merchants Plaza, and even Java Joe’s Cafe up on Central Street enjoyed increased traffic, owners Maddie and Steve Willey said.
“[The festival] brings a lot of people downtown, especially young people, which is good,” Steve Willey said.
The festival ended with Portland-based Rustic Overtones playing to a crowd that packed Broad Street. The band started at around 6:30 p.m. with a song titled “Oxygen,” which got the crowd swaying with the music, and ended just after 8 p.m. with an encore performance.
While mostly young people gathered in front of the stage, lining the street were families with young children and babies, and older people, some in wheelchairs. Intermingled in the crowd were several dogs, small and large, one of which sat on the stage for a while.
The eight-hour festival was a perfect way to get out and enjoy the sunshine, Bankston said.
“It’s kind of a kickoff of summer,” she said.