September 25, 2018
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The folk festival needs you to go enjoy the music — and contribute to its future

Kevin Bennett | BDN
Kevin Bennett | BDN
Blues singer Sister Monica Parker plays a gospel set on the Bangor Daily News Railroad Stage during the 2013 American Folk Festival on the Bangor Waterfront.

The stages and tents are up. Performers have arrived. Food is cooking. Beginning Friday 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 16 years, you likely know the routine. There will be stages stretching along the Penobscot River, from Main Street to the Kenduskeag Stream. Performers, ranging from Texas blues by Annika Chambers to Quebecois group Genticorum to hip hop with The Floorlords and many others, will provide nonstop music and dancing throughout the weekend.

Food vendors, selling pizza, lemonade, quesadillas and many other treats, will be spread throughout the venue, with a large cluster near the Penobscot River. Handmade crafts including jewelry, leatherworks, knit items, guitars and pottery will be displayed and sold.

As always, admission is free and dogs should stay at home.

The three-day festival starts 6 p.m. Friday with Tuba Skinny, a New Orleans jazz band, leading a parade through the waterfront venue.

The fun begins again at noon Saturday and runs through 6 p.m. Sunday. The weather forecast calls for warm, mostly sunny days.

While festival attendance is free, it costs nearly $1 million to put on the affair. Local businesses contribute about half of the festival’s funding. There also is money from the government, though 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 features big-name performers, and other arts events. Conde Nast recently listed the American Folk Festival among the best festivals in the world for the month of August.

It also helps the region economically. Since its inception in 2002, more than 290 performers and 1.7 million festival-goers have descended on the waterfront for the weekend celebration of culture, music and dance, according to organizers. 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.

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