25 Years of the Lowell Folk Festival: Ten Things
1. A success from the beginning, starting with National Folk Festivals as the model in the first three years. The content was high quality, the audiences were large, and the event production was first-rate. It’s always been a work-in-progress with improvements being made as seen and needed. Changes will continue based on feedback and observations.
2. The Lowell partnership ethic.
3. Wayne Toups and Zydecajun.
4. George Price and the flashy umbrella at the head of parades.
5. A long line at the Filipino food booth.
6. Rain, occasionally.
7. The South Common concerts in the early years.
8. The growth of the “fringe festival” in downtown and uptown with local bands on alternative stages.
9. Making Merrimack Street downtown a pedestrian way.
10. People who bring their dogs to the extravaganza. And the guy with the big parrot on his shoulder.
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11. Establishing a “Kid Area” on Shattuck Street with lots of partners.
12. People who dance unabashedly to the music and never mind who’s watching.
13. Michael Flatley – long before “Riverdance” – on the stage at St. Anne’s.
14. Thousands of volunteers and volunteer hours – priceless!
15. The founders: Ed Trudel, Peter Aucella, Paul Marion, Joe Wilson, the late Sue Leggat and the late Sandy Walter – all to be recognized tonight at the opening ceremony at BHP.
16. Watching an Irish Band (their name escapes me), fresh from Ireland and dressed like it in long sleeved wool, melting in the 95 degree, 100 percent humidity. I felt like running to the Store and buying them all shorts and tees! (This was a few years back, although last year might’ve been the worst of them all, I sweated off about 10 lbs by the time Saturday was over)
Bring back Wayne Toups.
Seán Keane’s Irish Brogue and sonorous voice.
Ribs and corn bread at the African American tent.
Polish Pierogi sliding down hungry gullets.
Amazing crafts along Lucy Larcum Pahk.
Saw Allison Krauss at the festival when she was just 18. Now 20 years later she is major star and has the most amazing voice. Saw her last night in Boston and it was fabulous!
17. Free bags of homegrown Folk Festival composted potting soil!
Angkor Dance Troupe performances!
Music by my fellow UMass Lowell alums ‘after Folk Fest’ at Major’s to keep the music going!
Artists lining the streets!
2009: the regular Sunday afternoon downpour happens before the last acts went on…sitting under a tent with metal poles while lightening flashed and the streets turned to a rushing river…and then afterward, hitting Boarding House Park for the last performance of Dr. Michael White and the Original Liberty Jazz Band with the other diehards still at the Festival. The New Orleans jazz band had to perform with no electric equipment due to all the puddles and risk of shorting out, and it was the wildest, most enthusiastic crowd I’d seen all weekend, and the best performance with so much energy bouncing from the crowd to the band to the crowd. Awesome, I will never ever forget that memory. Oh when the Saints…
Oh and sweet potato pie. The best!
I have another one:
The Angel Shout Band, about 12 very large men, ambling onto the tiny stage in the courtyard (alas, no longer a stage over there, now used for the arts & crafts). The Stage could barely fit them if they were empty-handed, but they were loaded with Tuba, Trombone, Bass Drums, and other instruments. And the cacophony of sound they created! A thunderstorm rolled in as they were playing and it felt like they were they cause. Awesome, talk about The Hammer of the Gods!