The stages and tents are up. Performers have arrived. Food is cooking. Beginning Friday 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 four stages stretching from Main Street to the Kenduskeag Stream. Musicians, ranging from a New Orleans jazz quartet to an Iraqi oud player to Korean drummers, 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 displayed and sold throughout the festival area.
As always, admission is free and dogs should stay at home. Parking at Bass Park will cost $8 for the day and free shuttle buses will take festival-goers to the waterfront.
The American Folk Festival starts today at 6:30 p.m. with the University of Maine marching band leading a parade through the festival grounds. The music continues until 10:30 p.m. with bluegrass, Quebecois, honky-tonk and more. The fun begins again at noon Saturday and runs through 6:30 p.m. Sunday.
While festival attendance is free, it costs nearly $900,000 to put on the three-day affair. The festival budget was trimmed after controversy earlier this year about the festival’s mounting debt and how much it owed to the city of Bangor. Local businesses have contributed about half of the festival’s funding, although donations are again lagging this year. There is also money from the government, although Bangor’s contribution has been reduced. 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 sixth 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, which helped spawn the ongoing waterfront concert series and other arts events.
To get in on the excitement, head downtown and enjoy the festivities.