American Folk Festival organizers and attendees could not have asked for a more perfect weekend to celebrate on the Bangor Waterfront. The 12th edition of the three-day music, art and food festival was held under clear, blue skies and full sun, which led into cool, crisp late-summer nights.
The festival kicked off with the annual parade from Broad Street to the Railroad Stage, led by Jorge Arce and Raiz de Plena, a Puerto Rican plena band, and repeated again Saturday night. Young and old alike clapped their hands and made their way down the street, while the hat-wearing, colorfully decked-out Bucket Brigade collected donations from the crowd.
Some of the new musical styles featured at this year’s festival included Elatos, a Greek music group, and a Peking Opera group called Qi Shu Fang, whose elaborate, multicolored costumes and highly choreographed movements were an auditory and visual treat. Their image also is featured on the 2013 American Folk Festival’s official T-shirt.
The dance stage on Friday night and Saturday afternoon had a popular attraction in rockabilly band Sonny Burgess and the Legendary Pacers, featuring pianist Lance Lipinsky, who Burgess — an 82-year-old guitarist and contemporary of Elvis Presley — said was the reincarnation of Jerry Lee Lewis.
Charlotte Patterson and her husband, Al, a retired couple from Albany, N.Y., had spent the week in Maine and wrapped it up with a Saturday visit to the festival. They were particularly fond of the rockabilly this year.
“We come to Maine a lot and we try to time it with the folk festival,” said Charlotte Patterson. “We love all the different kinds of music, and we’re really happy there’s music like this this year, because we remember when it was first around.”
Jenny Shrum, Michelle Johnson and Holly Twining, all of Orono, were there with their friend Christine Lamanna, a transplant to the area who was attending her first folk festival.
“We watched the Peruvian scissor dancers and all the amazing fiddlers, and then we danced to rockabilly,” said Lamanna. “This is really great because you can kind of travel the globe in a quarter-mile. I’ve had a blast today.”
Twining has been to the folk festival every year since she moved to Orono seven years ago.
“I remember that first time I came on a Friday night that first year and it was awesome,” she said. “Today I went right to dance. I had to. I have an 8-year-old and 4-year old, and they were all shaking their hips.”
In the food court, vendors were serving up many of the treats festival-goers have come to expect — from chicken on a stick to lobster rolls to mini doughnuts. The volunteers at the Hampden Congregational Church’s strawberry and blueberry shortcake stand were busy ladling up berries and whipping up cream to serve to hungry patrons.
“They start picking them in season, and they pick hundreds of quarts of berries, and every Sunday after church after that they’re slicing and sugaring and getting them in the freezer so they’re ready,” said Tricia Kearns, a Carmel resident who recently moved back to the area from Virginia. “I’ve always wanted to go to the festival. I’ve heard so much about it over the years. I’m so glad I’m here today. What a gorgeous day it is.”
The festival was set to wrap up early Sunday evening, with performances from Sonny Burgess, the Nepalese group Prem Raja Mahat and East African rumba band Samba Mapangala. Numbers on attendance and donations received from the Bucket Brigade are generally released in the week or two after the festival.