Lowell Folk Festival: 1990-94

Crowd at 2013 Lowell Folk Festival


Friday, Jul 27, 1990 – Saturday, July 28, 1990 – Sunday,  July 29, 1990

The first Lowell Folk Festival, after three iterations of the National Folk Festival in Lowell, was a great success. The South Common remained the site of the evening performances, but Boarding House Park was added to the downtown venues, joining JFK Plaza, the Market Street Stage, Market Mills Courtyard, and Lucy Larcom Park. A Saturday highlight was having the Rebirth Brass Band go to Boston to draw people to North Station and ride the MBTA Commuter Rail train to Lowell for the festival. More than 600 people were aboard that train.

Here are the performers:

  • Alison Krauss & Union Station (bluegrass)
  • Rebirth Brass Band (New Orleans street music)
  • Steve Riley (Cajun)
  • Cherish the Ladies (Irish)
  • Natalie MacMaster (Cape Breton violin)
  • Sun Rhythm Section (Rockabilly)
  • Claude Williams (Jazz violin)
  • Holmes Brothers (Blues)
  • Djimo Kouyate (Senegaliese music)
  • Badlands Singers (Native American)
  • Bill Smith (Adirondack storytelling)
  • Stanky and the Coal Miners (polka)
  • Los Pleneros de Yacayeque (Puerto Rican plena band)
  • Les-Franco Americains (French-Canadian)
  • Te Pethia (Greek)


Friday, July 26, 1991 – Saturday, July 27, 1991 – Sunday, July 28, 1991

This year, the Treme Brass Band traveled to Faneuil Hall Market Place on Saturday morning, paraded to North Station, and then played throughout the trip back to Lowell on the MBTA commuter rail train. There were 275 festival goers on the train, fewer than half the 600 from last year. Heavy rain on Friday night caused the cancellation of the traditional parade from JFK Plaza to South Common, and the outdoor performance was moved from the Common to the Lowell Memorial Auditorium. Parking in a city garage was $3, up from $2 last year. And the public restrooms in the newly opened  John Street Garage were much appreciated. Stages for this year’s festival included JFK Plaza, Boarding House Park, Market Street Stage, Market Mills Courtyard Stage, and the Acoustic Stage at Lucy Larcom Park

Performers in 1991 included:

  • Los Camperos de Nati CanoLouisiana Aces (Cajun)
  • Samite of Uganda
  • Tim and Mollie O’Brien
  • The Persuasions
  • Merakia
  • Sons of the Whiskey Rebellion
  • Michael Flatley and the Freeborn Irish
  • Johnnie Johnson (R&B, jazz and blues).
  • Lithuanian Folksong Quartet
  • Prem Nymith
  • Mike Piorek Orchestra (Polka)
  • Peter Rowan and Jerry Douglas
  • Greg Hooven and the  Backstep Band (Oldtime String Band)
  • Treme Brass Band
  • Jeep Wilcox
  • Irish Masters
  • Los Pieneros dei Coqui
  • Richard Hagopian (Armenian)



Friday, July 24, 1992 – Saturday, July 25, 1992 – Sunday, July 26, 1992

Good weather returned for the 1992 Folk Festival. When the marchers set out from JFK Plaza to South Common, it was clear and 68 degrees. Unfortunately, the Algiers Brass Band and the Los Pleneros del Batey were delayed and unable to make it in time for the parade, but Deputy National Park Superintendent George Price handed Mayor Tarsy Poulios his signature red, white and blue umbrella, found a drum, and provided musical accompaniment for the walk to the South Common. With beautiful weather on Saturday, more than 70,000 people came into the city, the largest one-day crowd to date. Another beautiful day on Sunday pushed the official attendance figure to 200,000. A new feature in 1992 came from the Downtown Lowell Business Association, consisting of 25 local businesses, which set up booths on Merrimack Street from Kirk to John offering food, festival shirts and other items. Festival visitors were also invited to the brand new Boott Cotton Mills Museum. As in previous years, the performance stages were JFK Plaza; Lucy Larcom Park; Boarding House Park; Market Street Stage; Market Mills Courtyard; and South Common

Performers in 1992 included:

  • Rockin’ Dopsie – Zydeco
  • Walt Solek – Polka
  • Bob Murphey – Texas story teller
  • Laurie Lewis and Grant Street – Bluegrass
  • Charles Brown – Blues
  • Laurie Lewis – Fiddle
  • Makredes Ensemble – Greek
  • Zhentian Zhang – Chinese dulcimer
  • Ben Guillemette – Canadian fiddle
  • Capoeira Camara – Brazilian dance
  • Los Pleneros Del Batey – Puerto Rican dance
  • The Algiers Brass Band
  • Tony Ellis -banjo
  • Cliff Haslam – pub songs
  • Jack Coen – Irish
  • Norman Kennedy – Scottish
  • New England Pentecostal Crusade Choir – Gospel
  • Eddie Pennington – Guitar
  • The Menhaden Chanteymen – Sea Chanteys
  • Tropical Power – Cape Verdean music
  • Sunshine Skiffle Band – Skiffle
  • The Rankin Family – Gaelic


Friday, July 23, 1993; Saturday, July 24, 1993; and Sunday, July 25, 1993

The Pinettes Brass Band from New Orleans kicked off the 1993 Lowell Folk Festival by leading a large crowd from JFK Plaza to South Common for the Friday night performance. The weather was beautiful throughout the weekend and the Festival was a great success. Besides the evening concerts at South Common, daytime stages were at JFK Plaza; Boarding House Park; Market Street State; Market MIlls Courtyard; St. Anne’s Churchyard. The Festival train from North Station ran again this year..

The performers in 1993 were:

  • Pinettes Brass Band – New Orleans brass band
  • Tropical Power – Funana/Cape Verdian
  • The Bluzblasters with Frankie Lee – R&B
  • Vietnamese Dragon Dancers
  • Buck Ramsey – Cowboy poet
  • Sheva Tamburitza Orchestra – Greek
  • Robert Lee Burnside – Mississippi Delta Blues
  • Savoy-Doucet Band – Cajun
  • Southern Scratch – Native American
  • Contemporary Greek Ensemble – Greek
  • Liz Carroll, Billy McComiskey, Daithi Sproule, John Timm – Irish
  • Jerry Grcevich – Tamburitza
  • Leroy Troy – Banjo
  • Claude Williams – Jazz violin
  • Jothi Raghavan – Indian Dance
  • Florence Martin – Acadian
  • The Bluegrass Band – Bluegrass
  • Tony Acosta y sus Tipicos – Merengue
  • Margaret MacArthur – New England Folk
  • Vergie Kelly, HOrace Boyer and David Marshall Jackson – Gospel
  • Josee Vachon – French-Canadian
  • Celia Ayala y su Ballet Folklorio – Bomba



Friday, July 29, 1994 – Saturday, July 30, 1994 – Sunday, July 31, 1994

After the evening performances at South Common, a National Park spokesperson said “this is the kind of weather we dream about.” Daytime performances were at JFK Plaza, Boarding House Park, St. Anne’s Churchyard, Market Street Stage and Market Mills Courtyard. The Festival train from North Station ran again this year. Also, a conference attended by 40 National Park Service superintendents from around the country was held in Lowell and overlapped with the Festival so they could experience it for themselves. Saturday afternoon was disrupted by a 1:30 pm thunderstorm, but the accompanying downpour was soon over and the sun returned just 30 minutes later with the Festival picking up where it had left off. Organizers estimated the overall Festival crowd to have been 185,000, and reviewers praised the enhanced energy of the performers when compared to last year.

Performers in 1994 were:

  • Doc Paulin’s New Orleans Brass Band
  • Boozoo Chavis and the Magic Sounds
  • Southern Rail (bluegrass)
  • Brasileirinho (Brazilian music)
  • Hula Halau ‘O Lilinoe (Hawaiian Hula)
  • The Mal Barsamian Ensemble (Armenian music)
  • Luther “Guitar Junior” Johnson & the Magic Rockers (blues & R&B)
  • Sleepy LaBeef (Rockabilly)
  • Gayle Ross (Cherokee storytelling
  • Claire Lynch & the Front Porch String Band (Bluegrass & country)
  • Seamus Egan and John Doyle (Irish Music)
  • The Johnson Mountain Boys (Bluegrass)
  • D.L. Menard (Cajun)
  • Eddie Blazonczyk’s Versatones (Polish polka)
  • Rita Paquin (French-Canadian)