Folk festival announces first round of acts

Posted March 14, 2011, at 4:59 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Organizers on Monday announced the first five acts for the 2011 American Folk Festival, the annual music and cultural event that draws tens of thousands of visitors to Bangor’s waterfront each August.

Blues artist Super Chikan; Leroy Thomas and the Zydeco Roadrunners; Rich in Tradition, a traditional bluegrass group; Hot Club of Cowtown, described as western swing; and Eden Brent, a blues pianist and vocalist, all have signed on to perform.

Those five, none of whom has performed in any previous year in Bangor, will join as many as a dozen additional artists for the Aug. 26-28 weekend event that is free and open to the public.

“It was important for us to find new artists so people that come don’t feel like they have seen it before,” festival Executive Director Heather McCarthy said. “But there are so many to choose from in so many different styles of music.”

Each year, the American Folk Festival partners with the National Council for the Traditional Arts to bring programming to Bangor. The full performance schedule for the 2011 festival will be finalized in late April, McCarthy said.

“The fact that we are part of a national family of festivals helps us draw quality acts, but we also have nine years of experience to draw from,” she said. “It’s really great that Bangor is getting such a good reputation.”

The local event began in Bangor in 2001 as the National Folk Festival, an event sponsored by the NCTA that travels to a different city every three years. In addition to Bangor, the national event has been held in Butte, Mont., Lowell, Mass., Richmond, Va., in its 73-year history. This year’s festival will be held from Sept. 2-4 in Nashville, Tenn.

After the National Folk Festival’s three-year run in Bangor ended in 2004, local arts supporters came together to form the American Folk Festival, which debuted in 2005 and has continued ever since.

Although the locally produced festival has faced economic uncertainty in past years, McCarthy said the event has righted the financial ship thanks to tremendous generosity of the Greater Bangor community.

Nearly $150,000 in expenses was trimmed from the budget between 2009 and 2010, allowing the festival to begin addressing past debts. Festival organizers also made some changes to the 2010 event, including reducing the number of stages and expanding the selections of crafters and vendors to boost revenue.

McCarthy said her staff and numerous volunteers already have been fundraising for this year. Although she didn’t have numbers yet, she said things are looking good so far.

“We’re firing on all cylinders with our fundraising,” she said. “We feel really good about how 2010 went and the support we’ve received.”

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