June 24, 2018
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American Folk Festival organizers hope to meet financial goals again this year

Brian Feulner | BDN
Brian Feulner | BDN
Volunteers with the Bucket Brigade walk around collecting donations during the 2013 American Folk Festival on the Bangor Waterfront.
By Nick McCrea, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — With about six months left until showtime, American Folk Festival organizers are hoping to continue the event’s recent trend of raising more than enough money to cover expenses.

In its past two seasons, the festival has finished with a small profit, aiding its recovery from previous seasons that left it in debt to the city. In 2013, the three-day music, arts and culture festival made about $35,000, according to Rick Fournier, chairman of the board of directors.

Two years running in the black is always a good thing,” Fournier said.

The festival is scheduled for Aug. 22-24 this year. It typically draws tens of thousands of people to the Bangor Waterfront.

Folk Festival Director Heather McCarthy said the fundraising goal for this year is $930,000, a slight step up from last year’s goal of $900,000. The next six months will be busy, she said, and festival staff are beginning to iron out deals with corporate sponsors.

“We feel very good about where we are,” she said.

In recent years, the festival has struggled to retain corporate donations because of the economic climate. That shift has prompted officials to get creative.

This year, organizers are holding Bangor’s first color run, called Color Bangor. The event is modeled after similar events that mix color, running and walking throughout Maine and the country, including “The Color Run” and “Color Me Rad.”

The April 26 event has a registration fee of $40 for those who register before April 4, and $50 after. All proceeds will benefit the American Folk Festival.

McCarthy said she hopes the color run will attract a new demographic of donors — young people — while building on their interest and involvement in the festival. The event also will keep people’s minds on the festival for longer than just the month of August.

In about a month, organizers will begin the volunteer recruiting process. The festival needs about 800 people, according to McCarthy. At the same time, they’ll be recruiting help for the color run.

Festival officials met with city officials Tuesday night to provide an update on the results of last year’s event and the planning for this year’s.

The 2012 and 2013, folk festivals were a success after financial rough patches in previous years, according to McCarthy. In 2010, organizers began to pay off a $300,000 debt owed to the city. The festival has kept up with those payments, according to the city.

In 2011, severe weather forced the cancellation of the festival’s third day, causing the loss of an estimated $75,000. Last year, the event went off without major weather disturbances and finished in the black, according to the director.

“To my mind, it’s all about sustainability and putting out a product that everyone likes and enjoys,” Fournier said.

McCarthy said the festival isn’t ready to announce acts, but that attendees can expect a majority of the artists will be ones Bangor hasn’t seen before, plus a few returning favorites. She said there will be two new genres this year, but declined to say what those were.

Fournier said changes to the venue made last year, such as the new Railroad Stage, seemed popular. The shifting of the dance tent to make the beer tent more visible may have helped increase the amount of beer sold at the festival, allowing the festival to boost its bottom line in spite of decreased donations to the Bucket Brigade. There should be relatively few changes to the layout of the festival this year, organizers said.

“We’re at less than six months to go, so planning is full speed ahead,” McCarthy said.

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