Belfast Music festival attracts 1,500

Posted May 01, 2011, at 6:51 p.m.

BELFAST, Maine — There were hipsters lurking on High Street, among the estimated 1,500 people scattered throughout town Saturday for Belfast’s second annual Free Range Music Festival.

Sitting in the sun next to Chase’s Daily with a group of arty-looking friends from Portland, Janane Tripp of Belfast said that the laid-back event was “super,” and that she was enjoying the people-watching.

“There’s a lot of new people I’ve never seen before,” the festival coordinator and Waterfall Arts employee said. “And it’s really an exciting crowd. It’s fun to venue-hop, and I think it’s awesome for Belfast.”

That seemed to be the consensus, displayed by the smiles on the faces of people walking from location to location to catch another bluegrass, rock, reggae or folk performance.

More than 30 different acts were spread among eight downtown locations, including the Colonial Theatre, Belfast Free Library and the American Legion Hall.

Headliner Michael Hurley of Oregon and local favorites the Toughcats packed the house at the Colonial Theatre.

“It was really terrific,” said Belfast City Councilor and theater co-owner Michael Hurley of Belfast. “Here we are, the last weekend in April — to put 1,500 people from the state of Maine and elsewhere on the streets and in town, having a great time, is wonderful. They love Belfast, and they’re going to come back.”

Other local businesspeople said that they noticed a bump in interest in sales that they attributed to festival crowds, including the staff of Coyote Moon on Main Street.

“It’s been a fun day,” said Tara Demere. “We’ve had more traffic, and a different mix of people. People have been in really good spirits.”

Organizer Meg Fournier said that she was “feeling great” about the turnout and the event, adding that at some point in the future the Free Range Music Festival will expand to two days.

That would be just fine with enthusiastic patrons like Pamela Shilhab of Troy, who said that she loved seeing the Gawler Family Band.

“I think it’s wonderful,” she said of the festival.

For volunteer John Zavodny, helping out at the event was a no-brainer.

“I appreciate local music, and Maine music, and appreciate the good energy going around about music in the midcoast,” he said.

As for tiny Osa Campoamor-Mentlik of Montville, she appreciated something much more specific, and she appreciated it a whole lot: the fiddle.

The dark-haired 3-year-old spent some time Saturday afternoon dancing on the sidewalk and listening raptly to the rollicking tunes played by the Gawler Family Band.

“She just loves dancing. She loves the fiddle. She loves strings,” said her mom, Maia Campoamor. “We came just for her.”

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