My writing colleague Jack McDonough, an occasional contributor to this blog, would say this about last night: “Rain failed to dampen the spirits” of the festival-goers as the 25th annual Lowell Folk Festival rolled through downtown with its cargo of bright music, savory foods, hand-shaped craft objects, bins of joy, and nonstop parade of every kind of person you would want to meet. The opening ceremony featured a big shout-out to the late Chrysandra “Sandy” Walter, the National Park Superintendent whose idea it was in 1986 to produce a big folk festival on the stage set of brick and cobblestone in the historic district. Sandy rounded up the local help and delivered the first folk festival in 1987. Lowell artist Bill Giavis presented a portrait of Sandy and her friend Pat Crane to current Supt. Michael Creasey for the permanent art collection of the Lowell Park. I was charged with introducing the founding leaders of the festival, and will post my full remarks here later for the record.
Reports of infectious elation from the Dance Pavilion on Dutton Street flowed in to the booth attendants at Boarding House Park as the Quebe Sisters on stage harmonized in Texa-billy tones and Dervish pumped up the Irish volume. I don’t know if being at the 25th festival influenced my focus of attention, but I saw and met an inordinate number of people who were veteran volunteers or attendees. There was a reunion atmosphere last night. Former National Park staff members returning to the fold, food booth workers whose roots go back to the Zenny Sperounis ethnic shindigs at Lucy Larcom Park, and repeat attendees from the ’80s, ’90s, and ’00s. There was a rain-burst just after 9 p.m. that thinned out the crowd, but plenty of people stuck around until closing.
Look for our blogging colleague Nancye Tuttle’s article about opening night in the morning SUN. Her sidebar on the Sandy Walter remembrance includes an image of Bill Giavis’ painting. All weather signs are positive for today’s show. We’ll see you on the streets.