June 25, 2018
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Fussing about the folk festival

Renee Ordway
By Renee Ordway, Special to the BDN

The folk festival has always caused a fuss.

Fuss, fuss, fuss.

The original dreamers, among them former BDN arts reporter Alicia Anstead and former Bangor Mayor John Rohman, started it back in the year 2000.

They caused a fuss when they teamed up with others and envisioned Bangor being the smallest city to ever host the esteemed National Folk Festival.

The location?

The Bangor waterfront, along the banks of a long-polluted and disregarded river.

There were skeptics.

It was a fuss for sure.

Julia Olin, associate director of the National Council of the Traditional Arts in Washington, D.C., came to scout out Bangor as a possible location for the festival.

It was winter. It was cold and snowy and the Penobscot River was covered in big chunks of ice. Don’t ask me what Olin saw that attracted her, but she envisioned something.

This is what she said: “We liked the people of Bangor. They were enthusiastic, bright, competent, down-to-earth. They had an openness. We sensed a community that is not intimidated by building a new event.”

It was a competitive process, Bangor got the nod from the National Folk Festival, it was appointed to host the festival from 2002 to 2005 and the transformation of the waterfront began.

The three years that followed exceeded every expectation and the Bangor area proved that given the opportunity it could indeed throw a heck of a party.

The American Folk Festival on the Bangor waterfront was formed as a continuation of that success.

It is still a fuss.

All year, while you all are doing your thing, board members and volunteers and staff are fussing, fussing, fussing about the details that will provide the experience of this weekend.

There is fussing about money, logistics, parking, staging, talent …

Trust me, I know.

I happen to share a bed and a life with the chief fussbudget of the American Folk Festival.

There is much fuss about the weather, which of course not any board member, sponsor or staffer can do anything about.

All you can do about the weather is fuss about it — and they do.

But there is a reason for the fuss.

The American Folk Festival is this city’s, if not the state’s, premier summertime event.

It’s a celebration of culture, history and community — community most of all.

At a time when lives are so fragmented by technology and politics and distance, the American Folk Festival offers respite.

Good music.

Good food.



For this weekend, for this year at least, it also would appear to be a weekend of good weather.

That is a gift.

The festival is a gift.

In 2011, an economic impact study by the Maine Arts Commission indicated that the festival generated about $15.3 million in revenue for the region.

What do you need to do to do your part?


First and foremost, if you haven’t come before, come now and bring a friend.

Come and eat, come and shop and come and plant yourself in front of a stage.

Give yourself a gift — a respite. It’s a long winter.

It is Friday as I am writing this. Most of the fussing is done. The number of faces they see in the crowd is the reward for those who have fussed all year.

You don’t need to fuss.

Sling a chair across your back, bring a book, enjoy the weather, the river, the food and most importantly the music.

Give yourself that gift.

Come and see what the fuss is all about.

Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

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