We wait. And wait. All through the cold and seemingly never ending Maine winter for this. Summer. Sun. Tubing at the lake, BBQ’s with friends and family, s’mores after dark around the fire at camp. All leading up to the final weekend of summer before the kids go back to school and fall sets in. Oh, but what a lovely weekend it is. It’s when the American Folk Festival comes to light up the Bangor Waterfront with sights, sounds and flavors from around the world. All in our backyard. How lucky are we??? Our family has been attending since the very beginning and each of my three kids anxiously awaits the festival all summer (they have yet to make the connection about it being the last weekend before school). Once the schedule is printed and distributed they pour over it like the Toys R Us catalog right before Christmas, marking out what they want to see and making sure if one groups performance time clashes with another, that they find another time and rearrange a bit if necessary (proof positive that they are definitely my kids).
Well, this year did not disappoint. Friday night for us always starts with the parade. We wait at the Sea Dog and follow the parade right down to the Railroad Stage, dancing the entire way. This year the parade was The Asociación Carnavalesca de Massachusetts . They were SO fun to watch and probably the most colorful parade we’ve seen yet! The intricate costumes and masks were simply stunning to look at. So thankful we got to see it again the following night. Then, we start eating and continue eating right through Sunday. It’s not easy, but we take one of the team and sample as much as possible.
(All photo credit goes to Jeff Kirlin of The Thing of the Moment)
We stayed for about a half hour of Mickey Galyean and Cullen’s Bridge and heard some of the best mountain bluegrass around. Mickey and his band made me happy we hadn’t brought chairs because they was no way to sit still during his lively performance. Dancing was a must. We hit the road after that so the kids could get a good nights rest for the next day of festival going.
We were back Saturday and the first thing circled on the kids schedule was The Family Tree – World Guitar Styles. Usually the kids are only happy for about 30 minutes before they get antsy. About 20 minutes into the show, my little guy fell asleep on me. The rest of our crew moved on and I was able to see the entire performance. And let me tell you – was I glad he fell asleep! Each of the performers explained a bit about their heritage and their particular instrument – everything from electric guitars to Bouzouki and an Oud (which I had never heard of but was soooo cool).
Then they played a melody on their respective ‘guitars’. After being throughly impressed by this, the magic started happening. They came together for a few tunes in a way that a passerby may have thought these gentleman have been playing together for 20 years. I literally had chills listening to them play and harmoniously blend the music from Syria, Greece, Niger and the US and I managed to get the picture below. What a way to kick off the day!
The little guy on my lap woke up at the end of the performance and we were off to explore! The day included many highlights and please indulge me and let me tell a few. Quebecois music is always a favorite of ours at the festival and De Temps Antan put on a few stellar performances that had everyones feet tapping and bodies moving. Their blend of fiddle, accordion, harmonica, guitar, bouzouki and a number of other instruments was truly spectacular to see in person. Another favorite was The Dardanelles, a 5 man band from Newfoundland that brought a lot of energy to the stage. Their music had my kids dancing and twirling and full of smiles. Mitch Frohman and The Bronx Horns’ mambo/salsa performance was phenomenal. They were a perfectly orchestrated band and the listeners couldn’t help being instantly immersed into the music and rhythm.
More highlights from Saturday include Tal National, a high energy 16 member band that represented the music of their country of Niger fantastically. What fun they all were to watch and dance to! We also caught about 20 minutes each of Sleepy LaBeef (Rockabilly) and Preston Shannon (Memphis Blues) between eating and catching up with friends we hadn’t seen in a while. That’s another favorite about the festival – we see so many friends, coworkers and family members there! It’s like a big reunion where we can have fun, eat and drink and catch up while listening to music we’d never get to hear all in one place anywhere else.
With that, we took our leftover kettle korn (the trick is to buy plenty so you can bring some home) and hit the road with a few more must see performances on the schedule for the next day.
One of the highlights for Sunday was without a doubt, the Red Trouser Show. This duo has been doing acrobatics together for many years and have been friends since 1st grade. The stunts they performed were amazing feats of strength and agility. I’ll let these pictures do the talking…
And they were absolutely hilarious! The crowd was a sea of smiles and laughs.
Sunday we also saw the classic Indian Bharata Natyam dance and music of Kasi Aysola and Ensemble. The beauty and grace of the dance left us speechless and in awe. I didn’t want it to end but there was more music to be had before we had to head home. We saw Wylie & the Wild West light up the stage and my kids got the biggest kick out of them and the yodeling! I didn’t tell them ahead of time what the performance would be like and they were majorly impressed and entertained! We wanted to see De Temps Antan one more time before leaving and we had just enough time to make our way through the beloved food court one more time before their performance.
A nice mid afternoon snack of potato chip fries and smoothies and we were back on our way over to Two Rivers Stage (a family favorite) to wrap up the weekend. The difference in performances between seeing them on the Railroad stage and this one was vast. It felt like we were seeing two totally different shows!
All in all, there’s just so many things we love about the American Folk Festival. The community, the atmosphere, the music, the food, the crafts, the running into old friends, immersing my kids in many facets of the world right along the Bangor Waterfront, dancing alongside the smiling faces of strangers bobbing their heads. Too much to mention.
And that was a wrap for us this year. We walked away with smiles on our faces and said goodbye to our friends, the Folk Festival and summer vacation taking solace in the fact that we know next week the AFF staff will be hard at work planning next years festival! See you next year!
I almost forgot!!!
Already on the schedule for next year is Color Bangor 2016, set to take place on the Bangor Waterfront on Saturday, May 14. The third annual color fun run/walk supports the festival with 100% of proceeds benefiting the American Folk Festival. Registration is already open for Color Bangor 2016, with special lower-than-usual pricing for the earliest registrations. Starting Today (Aug. 31) – we are opening up registrations for everyone at the ‘kid’ rate of just $25 per person. It’s for a limited time, so if you are interested in the lowest possible rate for Color Bangor, now is the time to register and mark your calendars for May 14, 2016.”
And last but not least, The American Folk Festival 2016 is scheduled for August 26-27-28, 2016! I’m marking my calendar – are you?!?!