The town of Winterport is a welcoming one. A beautiful harbor, solid locally owned businesses, some nice restaurants, a farmers market and pretty little Abbott Park, just off Route 69 in downtown Winterport. That park each year hosts the town’s premiere event, the Winterport Music Festival, a daylong gathering of a wide variety of musicians from all over Maine and New England. It’s clearly one of the things Winterport Town Manager Phil Pitula, founder of the event, looks forward to each year.
“It’s a labor of love for us. We think it’s the best bang for your buck, locally, to hear great music in a family-friendly atmosphere,” said Pitula, a longtime bass player in a number of area bands who currently plays with the bluegrass-inspired band Nevah.
This year’s festival, set for 11 a.m.-sundown Saturday, Aug. 6, is the sixth one the town has produced. Eight groups, from Celtic to reggae, will perform on the stage at Abbott Park throughout the day, and with $5 admission (free to kids under 12) it’s an easy way to get out with the family and enjoy live music.
This year’s headliners are Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish, a Maine-favorite blues and rhythm and blues group out of Martha’s Vineyard, and Girsa, an eight-woman Celtic collective hailing from New York. Johnny Hoy has performed at the festival before, and for a number of years was a staple in midcoast Maine, performing at the Blue Goose in Northport and the North Atlantic Blues Festival in Rockland.
Girsa was brought to Pitula’s attention by Winterport native and Boston-based musician Martin Earley, who knows the group personally.
“One thing we haven’t had at the festival is Celtic music, and these ladies are really amazing,” said Pitula. “They played at the Unity College Performing Arts Center a while back, and they just wowed the crowd. They’re all very, very talented.”
Other bands include Soca Party, a group of Hermon High School students who play steel drums under the tutelage of some of the Blue Hill-area steel drum teachers. Hampden Academy senior and singer-songwriter Emily Guillow will perform, as will Koostix, a trio featuring two acoustic guitarists and a hand drummer. Jazz In Blue is an area jazz quartet featuring the vocal stylings of Ginny Palmer, which will take the stage in the afternoon, just after Bangor-area bluegrass king Bill Thibodeau, also of the band the Stringwinders. A new addition to the festival is reggae band Catchavibe, based out of Belfast, who will perform a sunny summer set of Maine reggae.
“The thing we are really committed to is providing a diversity of music to people,” said Pitula. “I think this is a great spotlight on all the talented musicians we have in our state, as well as some favorites from outside the state.”
Along with music, there will be a children’s area featuring a petting zoo and face painting, lots of food vendors and a beer garden provided by Winterport Winery and Penobscot Bay Brewery. Pitula also wants to let potential festival-goers know that the festival is still looking for a few more volunteers to assist with running the show.
“We’re totally homegrown here, so the more help we have, the better,” he said. “It’s a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon and evening.”
For more information on the festival, visit www.winterportmaine.gov/musicfestival.html.