The American Folk Festival: A Volunteer’s Perspective

The American Folk Festival has become one of the most well-attended, most talked about, and most exciting events of summer. Mixed in with the many performers, craftsmen and craftswomen, food vendors, and festival-goers are hundreds of volunteers. Volunteering at the American Folk Festival is an amazing experience. Take the word of one of the Festival’s longtime volunteers, Robin Murphy:

My family has been heavily involved in the American Folk Festival since its inception. In fact, we were volunteers when the National Folk Festival was held in Bangor. My parents are now members of the Festival committee and I haven’t missed a year since I was old enough to volunteer. I remember being so mad that I wouldn’t be able to volunteer like my sisters because my eighth birthday came after the festival.

There are several things I’ve done for the festival since then. The first is volunteering in the Children’s Village. I have sat for hours painting children’s faces, butterflies, cat faces, batman, fire trucks, you name it. I’m no Picasso, but I try my best. I think my favorite request was a lobster. The kids’ reactions are the best part. I love putting smiles on their faces.

Another thing I do every year is the Bucket Brigade. Part of the fun our bucket group has is coming up with crazy outfits to wear. We figure that we’ll have more donations if people can see us. Some of my favorites are the guy who has a bucket for a hat, or an octopus hat, things like that. My own choice was to go all out with glitter. The first year I volunteered as a “Bucket Head” a wonderful person put a one hundred dollar check into our bucket. The Bucket Brigade is great because you can wander around and listen to all the music. I also like being a major part of keeping the festival running. Without the donations the festival couldn’t possibly run.

That isn’t all I do, either. In the weeks leading up to the festival, there is all kinds of behind the scenes work that most people don’t know about. All the lovely people who organize the festival do a fantastic job, but it is impossible for them to get everything done by themselves. My mother, sisters and I go down to the festival office to help out. We stuff envelopes to send off into the mail or put together the packs for the volunteer leaders, make phone calls, and any other busy work that needs to be done. Last year, there were coloring books for the Children’s Village. Now this was all well and good, and a brilliant idea. The only problem was that when they arrived they were neither folded nor stapled. So my sister, myself and two other volunteers had to do it. We had a little trouble when the staplers in the office broke and we had to send someone out to buy new ones. It took three days of work and by the end of it, our hands were sore. We would also have been happy to never see another coloring book again! The kids loved them so it was worth it.

The amount of things that need to get done prove that there are NEVER enough volunteers. I have so much fun every year and I’d like the festival to be around for many years to come. It’s something I look forward to.

With more than 800 volunteers needed to put on the three-day event, a variety of talents and schedules are extremely useful. Many volunteers join us for one or two short shifts and spend the rest of the weekend enjoying the festival at their leisure.
To inquire about volunteer opportunities, simply call the American Folk Festival office at (207)992-2630 or e-mail


Robin Murphy is a 20 year old Bangor Resident who will be a Junior studying Creative Writing at the University of Maine at Farmington this fall. She enjoys making jewelry when she is not volunteering for the American Folk Festival.
Recommend this article
Dan Cashman

About Dan Cashman

Dan Cashman has been involved with the American Folk Festival since 2011 and is currently serving on the board of the Festival. For more information about the American Folk Festival, visit