The stages and tents are up. Performers have arrived. Food is cooking. Beginning this 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 11 years, you likely know the routine. There will be stages stretching along the Penobscot River, from Main Street to the Kenduskeag Stream. Musicians, ranging from a Quebecois-Celtic ensemble to Peking Opera to bluegrass and Greek, will provide nonstop music.
Food vendors, selling everything from doughnuts to Thai food to blueberry smoothies, will be spread throughout the venue, with a large cluster near the Penobscot River. Handmade crafts including lightweight Japanese rice paper jewelry, mini table-top fire pits, and pottery, will be displayed and sold.
As always, admission is free, and dogs should stay at home. Parking at Bass Park will cost $8 for the day or $10 for the entire weekend and free shuttle buses will take festival-goers to the waterfront.
The 12th edition of the American Folk Festival starts Friday at 6:45 p.m. with Jorge Arce and Raiz de Plena leading a parade through the festival grounds. The music continues until 10:30 p.m. with blues, music from Ireland and more. The fun begins again at noon Saturday and runs through 6:15 p.m. Sunday.
The weather forecast calls for warm sunny days.
While festival attendance is free, it costs close to $1 million to put on the three-day affair. The budget was trimmed after controversy in recent years about the festival’s mounting debt and the amount it owed to the city of Bangor. Local businesses contribute about half of the festival’s funding. There is also money from the government, although Bangor’s contribution has been reduced in recent years. 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 three years as host of the National Folk Festival and subsequent years as host of its successor, the American Folk Festival, 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. That enthusiasm has helped spawn the Waterfront Concert series, which now features big name performers and other arts events, including KahBang.
It also helps the region economically. According to a 2011 economic impact study by the Maine Arts Commission, the annual festival generates estimated revenue in the region of more than $15.3 million — from an audience that’s 68 percent local and 32 percent from elsewhere in the state, the country and the world.
To get in on the excitement, head downtown and enjoy the festivities.