BANGOR (AP) – Attendance at the National Folk Festival was expected to far exceed last year’s numbers as the event’s three-year run in Bangor came to end Sunday.

Festival organizers have been so taken by the event’s strong showing that they are planning hold a new festival, the American Folk Festival, on the Bangor waterfront in years to come. Next year’s inaugural event is scheduled for Aug. 26-28.

Heather McCarthy, the festival’s executive director, said the American Folk Festival will be similar in size and scope to the National Folk Festival and continue to have free admission.

The American Folk Festival will work in conjunction with the National Folk Festival, which moves to different U.S. city every three years, she said. This is Bangor’s final year as the host city before the event moves to Richmond, Va., beginning next year.

During the festival’s first year in Bangor in 2002, attendance was estimated at 80,000. Last year it swelled to 110,000.

Barring any unforeseen circumstances on Sunday, attendance this year could reach 145,000, said Dwain Winters, the festival’s technical director. The final figures won’t be available for another week or two.

“We are seeing good steady growth,” Winters said. “This has been a great year.”

Now in its 66th year, the festival each year brings together a variety of music and dance performances, workshops, storytelling, crafts exhibits and the like. Musical performances range from blues, rockabilly and bluegrass to swing, zydeco, Cajun and other musical styles.

The first sign that this weekend might bring record crowds came Friday when tens of thousands of people showed up for the opening night parade and performances by 91-year-old blues musician Pinetop Perkins.

Much of the festival is about preserving musical tradition.

Among the performers over the weekend were 14-year-old Brooks Robertson and Buster Jones, who awed the crowds with their fingerpicking guitar playing. Robertson has been playing the fingerpicked guitar for just three years, but is already considered one of the nation’s best.

Rachel LeBlanc and Lucie Ouellette, a mother-daughter tandem from the Fort Kent area, hope to preserve French-language ballads from the St. John Valley with their music.

The Reeltime Travelers, a Tennessee string band that opened the entertainment Saturday on the festival’s main stage, is committed to keeping old-time music alive. But the band members also write their own music.

Martha Scanlan, a guitar player in the band, said the folk tradition is about evolution.

“I’s something that belongs to all of us, and it unites people,” Scanlan said.


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