Folk festival creates endowment fund

A tattered 2009 American Folk Festival Bucket Brigade donor sticker remains affixed to the asphalt on Bangor's waterfront nearly a month after the festival. Photographed September 22, 2009. (Bangor Daily News/John Clarke Russ)
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A tattered 2009 American Folk Festival Bucket Brigade donor sticker remains affixed to the asphalt on Bangor's waterfront nearly a month after the festival. Photographed September 22, 2009. (Bangor Daily News/John Clarke Russ)
Posted May 25, 2010, at 1:07 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The American Folk Festival on the Bangor Waterfront announced on Tuesday the creation of an endowment fund to ensure the long-term sustainability of the festival. The creation of the fund came as a result of the Producers’ Circle Giving Program that the organization unveiled earlier this month.

According to Julia Munsey, chairwoman of the festival’s development committee, the Producers’ Circle kickoff has been successful in many ways.

“In the past few weeks we have held a number of events to kick off the new Producers’ Circle program. The response has been very positive, yielding $16,000 in individual giving support for the festival,” Munsey said in a news release. “At a recent event an individual donor stepped forward with an additional $1,000 to begin an endowment fund for the festival to ensure its continuation. The support from the community has been impressive and we are very thankful.”

For the first time since the festival’s inception, the Bangor City Council formalized in February a three-year agreement with festival organizers that gradually will draw down municipal support for the annual waterfront event, reducing the city’s financial obligations and making private donations even more important to the festival’s funding formula.

The American Folk Festival on the Bangor Waterfront branched off from the National Folk Festival in 2005. While popular, the festival built significant debt over the course of five years, most of which has been paid by the city of Bangor through surplus funds.

Last year, the city cut off its funding and the previously undisclosed financial relationship between the city and the festival became public, prompting festival organizers to take a harder look at the budget. The folk festival board last month unveiled a 2010 budget that cut $140,000 from expenses in an effort to keep the event financially solvent. The festival still owes the city approximately $300,000 in past debt.

Although the festival will remain free, some changes are being made. The number of stages will decrease from six to four, the festival will contract directly for technical services rather than relying on an outside service, and the festival will expand the selection of crafters and vendors to increase revenue.

In early May, organizers announced the Producers’ Circle giving program, whose members donate $1,000 or more to the American Folk Festival. In recent weeks, five receptions have been hosted by American Folk Festival board members and area restaurants, giving more than 75 community members the opportunity to hear festival updates and details on the Producers’ Circle program. To date, 16 people have joined this group of supporters.

Membership in the Producers’ Circle offers a number of benefits, including admission to the kickoff party held before the festival and an exclusive, special edition festival poster.

Additional Producers’ Circle events are being planned for June. Festival friends who want to attend one of these events or receive information about the endowment fund should call Mary at 974-3217.

The 2010 American Folk Festival will be held Aug. 27-29 and feature more than 15 traditional performing groups representing Quebec, Irish, Latin American and other traditions.

For information about the 2010 American Folk Festival on the Bangor Waterfront, call 992-2630, visit www.americanfolkfestival.com or contact the American Folk Festival at 40 Harlow St. in Bangor.

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