BANGOR, Maine — Official numbers on the size of the crowd haven’t been tallied, but those who attended the American Folk Festival on the Bangor Waterfront this weekend were treated to some hot weather, great music, and a fantastic lineup of food and craft vendors.
“We’re very pleased with the audience — both the size of the audience and the spirit and support that they’ve been giving us,” American Folk Festival Executive Director Heather McCarthy said Sunday shortly before the three-day event wrapped up.
She said that in contrast to the rain that fell during last year’s festival, this weekend was weather perfect.
Festival-goers remained responsibly hydrated Sunday despite the intense heat, with only five or six people requiring treatment at the first aid center on site, according to Bangor Assistant Fire Chief Darrell Cyr.
There were reports that one vendor was taken to the hospital Saturday for heat exhaustion and another for an apparent diabetes-related issue.
“This is the ninth year of the festival, and we have a very loyal audience,” McCarthy said. “As each year goes along, they learn how to handle the heat and how to handle the weather and to wear comfortable shoes.”
People waving paper fans and sitting under umbrellas or resting in whatever shade they could find were common sights.
The music kicked off at noon Sunday and continued past 6 p.m. with festival-goers enjoying gospel, blues and R&B from The Holmes Brothers, dancing along in the Dance Pavilion to the honky-tonk country of Dale Watson and the African beats of Kenge Kenge. Others tapped their toes at the Penobscot Stage with Canadian Quebecois favorite Le Vent du Nord.
“I have to say I enjoyed the jazz and blues music by Michael White. That was beautiful, fantastic,” said Dean Jacobs, who traveled 90 miles from Sherman with his wife, Paula, to attend the festival Sunday.
“I love it, and we can stand all kinds of sun,” said Jacobs as he sat in a camp chair in front of the Railroad Stage.
“We’ve come pretty much every year,” said Jen Larlee of Bangor, who attended the festival all three days this year with her husband and two young children. “I have to say, I think the hip-hop [Urban Artistry] last night was my favorite thing — and they danced salsa at the Dance Stage last night.”
“It’s all wonderful, it is,” said Roland Watier of Union, who travels abroad to hear international music with his wife, Carol. “We stayed on this side of the pond this year, so it’s our fix this year. We come to the folk festival every year.”
But not everyone comes just for the music — many look forward to the food. Chicken on a stick, crabmeat rolls, blueberry smoothies, gyros, ice cream, wraps and plenty of other goodies were served up to the tens of thousands of hungry attendees. Carol Braley of Winthrop clutched a long plastic bag filled with fresh-popped kettle corn, which she slowly munched on as the afternoon progressed.
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“This stuff is addictive,” she said Saturday. “I only eat it once a year at the festival, and you just can’t stop.”
Dan Clifford of Ellsworth agreed that the food is a big draw and is what he comes for. He brought along his brother from Florida and sister from Texas to the festival Sunday to indulge in fruit smoothies from Smoothie Shack and strawberry shortcake from the Hampden Congregational Church.
Police said there were no major incidents at this year’s festival. They kept a lookout Sunday for a man who reportedly was walking down Front Street with a bucket taking donations but not wearing a Folk Festival volunteer T-shirt. The man also was alleged to be handing out purple stickers, although the official sticker given to those who donated Sunday was yellow. Purple was the color used Saturday. Police hadn’t located the man as of Sunday evening, according to Bangor Deputy Police Chief Peter Arno.
The yearly call for crowd donations gained even more urgency this year, as the $226,000 budget deficit became a worrisome issue. J. Martin, coordinator for the Bucket Brigade, said Saturday that the festival was on track to break the previous fundraising record of $107,000.
“I had a volunteer ask if I could count his bucket, which we never normally do during the actual festival because it would be a huge headache,” he said. “But I was glad I did, because he had $5,000 just in his own bucket. There were more 20 dollar bills than any other bills. If that says anything, then we are doing great.”
BDN editor Aimee Thibodeau contributed to this report.