Eastern Maine Development District (Bangor, ME)

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Male guitarist wearing sunglasses, beret, and a green-toned Hawaiian shirt, on-stage singing into the microphone

Cyril Pahinui, Hawaiian slack-key guitarist, performs at the 2005 American Folk Festival in Bangor, Maine.  Photo by Kevin Bennett, courtesy of the Bangor Daily News

Eastern Maine Development Corporation (EMDC) is a private, nonprofit organization established in 1967 to help businesses and communities in Eastern Maine develop and grow.  One of the programs which EMDC has been involved in is the development and support of the American Folk Festival in Bangor, Maine. Building on Bangor's past success in hosting the National Folk Festival, in 2005 the American Folk Festival was created to continue bringing a wide array of traditional arts to the rural region, with support from EMDC, the City of  Bangor, the National Council for the Traditional Arts, and the Maine Folklife Center at the University of Maine.

In FY 2005, EMDC received an NEA Access to Artistic Excellence grant of $40,000 to support the inaugural year of the American Folk Festival. The festival took place on the Bangor Waterfront from August 26-29, 2005, presenting music, dance, and other performing arts of cultures from across America and the world. Approximately 150,000 people attended the festival, with nearly a quarter of the audience coming from out of state.

Twenty-one performing acts and 47 craft and food vendors were part of the festival, offering a variety of regional and ethnic arts, crafts, and foods. The performers ranged from the blues of Cephas & Wiggins and the rockabilly of Wanda Jackson (both Cephas and Jackson are NEA National Heritage Fellows) to the traditional Quebecois music of Le Vent du Nord and the flamenco music and dance of Espiritu del Flamenco.

In addition to the national acts brought in for the festival, many Maine acts were featured, including Acadian-style master fiddlers Don Roy, Lucien Mathieu, and Erica Brown, and Les Pieds Rigolants, an ensemble of young dancers from Lewiston-Auburn whose specialty is step dancing. The success of the festival will help ensure that it becomes an annual event.

(From the NEA 2005 Annual Report)