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, which has shrunk considerably in recent years, needs you to go enjoy the music, food and arts — and to contribute financially.
If you’ve been in Bangor any of the past 17 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 the Maine French fiddle playing Don Roy Trio, to blues and jazz musician Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton, to Ikirenga Cy’intore, a Rwandan music and dance group from Portland, to The Fitzgeralds, a fiddle-playing and step dancing family from Ottawa, and many others, will provide nonstop music and dancing throughout the weekend.
Food vendors will be spread throughout the venue, with a large cluster near the Penobscot River. Handmade crafts and food products 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 the John Bapst High School music program and the Shoestring Theater from Portland leading a parade along the waterfront.
The fun begins again at noon Saturday and runs through 6 p.m. Sunday. The weather forecast calls for warm, sunny days.
While festival attendance is free, it costs a lot to put on the three-day affair. Local businesses contribute much of the festival’s funding and a significant amount comes from individual donors and the sale of festival merchandise. The city of Bangor provides in-kind support such as police coverage and municipals workers to set up and take down festival facilities.
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 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.