American Folk Festival

Posted Aug. 27, 2009, at 6:10 p.m.

The stages and tents are up. Performers have arrived. Food is cooking. Beginning this evening, it’s time for you to head down to the Bangor Waterfront for the American Folk Festival. To continue its success, the festival needs you — to go enjoy the music, food and arts, and to contribute financially.

If you’ve been in Bangor any of the past eight years, you likely know the routine. There will be five stages stretching from Main Street to the Kenduskeag Stream. Musicians, ranging from Quebecois singers to an Ethiopian ensemble to a Chicago blues band, will provide nonstop music.

Food vendors, selling everything from alligator meat to gooey chocolate cake to blueberry smoothies, will be spread throughout the venue, with a large cluster near the Penobscot River. Handmade crafts will be demonstrated and sold throughout the festival area.

As always, admission is free and dogs should stay at home. Parking at Bass Park will cost $5 a day with free shuttle buses to take festival-goers to the waterfront.

The American Folk Festival starts today at 6 p.m. with a Cajun music performance by The Lost Bayou Ramblers. A parade through the festival grounds at 6:45 p.m., led by the University of Maine marching band, will get the crowd moving and grooving. The music continues until 10:30 p.m. with reggae, blues, Acadian and more. The fun begins again at noon Saturday and runs through 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

While festival attendance is free, it costs the city and others more than $1 million to put on the three-day affair. Local businesses have contributed about half of the festival’s funding, although donations are lagging this year, likely because of the economy. There is also money from the government. The rest must come from individual donors and the sale of festival merchandise.

As in past years, volunteers will walk through the crowds with buckets for donations, not only to meet this year’s obligations, but to jump-start next year’s festival. So, give generously.

Through its three years as host of the National Folk Festival and its successor, the American Folk Festival, which is in its fifth year, Bangor has answered skeptics who doubted the small city could pull off such an event. The top-notch entertainment, enthusiastic crowds and positive reviews made the city look at itself in a more positive way. Keeping this cultural and morale booster going means adopting a permanent view of Bangor as a destination for the kinds of acts and offerings the festival presented.

To get in on the excitement, head downtown, bring an umbrella and enjoy the festivities.

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