The Lowell Folk Festival took place during the last weekend of July. This year, the festival kicked off with a parade, music and ethnic foods on Friday July 27th and continued until Sunday July 29th.
The festival is held at six different stages as well as several closed off streets throughout downtown Lowell, Massachussetts.
According to the festival website, “With six performance stages, some folks settle in for an afternoon or evening at one stage. Others move around to according to the schedule to experience the various venues, performances, and audiences. There are sunny and shaded stages, and there will be smiling faces all around. With a Family Activities Area, Crafts Demonstrations, savory ethnic foods, and so much more, everyone enjoys it their way.”
The festival started Friday evening with a dance parade at 6:00pm followed by concerts at the Boarding House Park Stage and the Tsongas Arena Dance Stage from 7:00 to 10:00pm. On Saturday and Sunday, a variety of performers occupied six different stages from noon until late in the evening.
This years performers included "Pan" Franek Zosia and the Polka Towners, Benjamin the Juggling Clown, Brewster Bayside Skippers, Davell Crawford, Denis Pépin and Susie Lemay, Feufollet, Hula Halau 'o Keikiali'I, Imamyar Hasanov & Pejman Hadadi, J.P. Harris and the Tough Choices, Joan Soriano, Jones Benally Family Dancers, Jorge Arce Comparsa Boricua, Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto Lúnasa, Magic Slim & The Teardrops, Michael Winograd & The Klezmer Orchestra International, Oliver "Tuku" Mtukudzi, Quarteto Olinda, Richmond & Scalise, Riley Baugus & Kirk Sutphin, Sophia Bilides, The Claire Lynch Band, The Ethel Caffie - Austin Singers, The Jim Show and Zhentian Zhang.
The Lowell Folk Festival boasts a multitude of ethnic foods that draw people from all over the country to have a taste. “Non-profit ethnic organizations, mostly local, come together to prepare and sell the foods of their heritage. Their proceeds benefit numerous worthy projects and programs.”
Over the course of three days, delicious foods from every culture was served to hungry guests including Armenian, Thai, American, Liberian, Greek, Brazillian, Pilipino, Middle Eastern, Israeli, Asian, Spanish, Portuguese, Jamaican, Indian, Irish, Italian and much more.
After grabbing a bite to eat, guests had their choice of fun activities to do. While many chose to listen to the variety of music or walk around the surrounding area with their pets, some chose to attend the craft fairs. “This year's folk craft area featured the work of traditional artists who crafted a variety of items to protect and adorn the head and the feet. Using an array of materials, techniques, and styles, each craftsperson worked within well-established traditions.”
Guests were able to witness the Hat Ladies of St. Peter's Fiesta fashion fanciful hats in honor of the patron saint of fishermen for Gloucester's annual celebration, see pre-Lenten traditions of Caribbean carnival headdresses and Puerto Rican vejigante masks, learn about the centuries old traditions of Lithuanian head garlands for Midsummer and Hungarian beaded maiden crowns for ceremonial occasions, see how fashion and modesty combine in Islamic head coverings, watch a Boston shoe builder work with shoe lasts and leather to create shoes or even talk to a neighborhood cobbler.
The Lowell Folk Festival is a family friendly event with many activities catering to children. Over on Shattuck Street, hands-on games such as box hockey, bean bag toss and much more were offered by the City of Lowell’s Parks and Recreation staff to keep kids active and entertained. The Revolving Museum also offered unique work shops and free art-making activities for the whole family.
For people who wanted to get out of the hot weather, the Boston and Maine Railroad Historical Society had an operating telegraph machine that demonstrated how railroaders communicated with each other before modern devices.
“The Boston & Maine Railroad Historical Society is a Massachusetts non-profit educational organization founded in 1971 to preserve material relating to the history of the Boston & Maine Railroad and its predecessor companies.” Destination Lowell, organized by Cultural Organization of Lowell/COOL, offered festival visitors a taste of Lowell's local cultural scene. Organizations that were available to visitors over the course of the festival included the American Textile History Museum, Angkor Dance Troupe, Dickens in Lowell, Greater Lowell Indian Cultural Association/GLICA, Greater Lowell Technical High School, Light of Cambodian Children, Lowell Philharmonic Orchestra, Lowell Parks and Conservation Trust, Lowell Celebrates Kerouac, Lowell Memorial Auditorium, Lowell Spinners, Merrimack Valley Jazz Fest, Merrimack Repertory Theatre and The Whistler House and Museum of Art.
“Following the success of hosting the National Folk Festival in Lowell for three years, 1987-1989, the producing partners and community continued the excitement with the Lowell Folk Festival in 1990. With hundreds of thousands of visitors attending annually, the experience is ever-changing. The four producing partners: The City of Lowell, the Lowell Festival Foundation, Lowell National Historical Park, and the National Council for the Traditional Arts, have continued organizing and presenting the Festival annually.”
The festival has become a part of the history of Lowell with one guest even referring to it as “the Mardi Gras of Lowell.” The event is free to attend and very easy to travel to with on site parking as well as a shuttle bus from the Lowell commuter rail station to the festival so even if you missed it this year, it is definitely an event that you won’t want to miss out on again.