If you’re reading this article chances are you are familiar with Downtown New Bedford and its many charms; the nearby working waterfront, the delicious restaurants and the quaint cobblestone streets. In fact, if you are a frequent visitor of New Bedford, these sites might have become almost commonplace to you. Yet there is one weekend in the year that even for those of us who work and live downtown, the streets becomes nearly unrecognizable to our eyes.
That weekend is the New Bedford Folk Festival and it is a time when those quaint cobblestone streets become filled with colorful arts and crafts vendors as food carts fill the air with savory aromas and vibrant music can be heard all around. On average, 3,000 people buy tickets to the musical events and an estimated 10-20,000 people roam the streets buying goods and food. If you’ve never been it is a sight to behold as it draws in talent and spectators from all over the world.
The 2014 New Bedford Folk Festival will take place the weekend of July 5th and 6th and while the talent is still being announced there are already some headliners of note that make the very affordable ticket price a worthy investment. This year the New Bedford Guide is a proud media sponsor, and thus this article will hit upon some of the major things you’ll want to know about this year’s fest.
1. The Music
As with every year, the New Bedford Folk Festival brings a variety of different types of folk music to the stage. This year there will be close to 50 bands performing throughout the weekend. Taking a look at the bands that have already been listed to the website it is clear that there’s great diversity in the style of sound. Participating acts range from traditional jug bands to singer/songwriters to Celtic folk. Festival organizer Alan Korolenko expressed that the festival tries to integrate folk sounds from around the world, including French Canadian music, “something which isn’t really heard around here despite the prevalence of French Canadian history in this region”.
While there are already many bands of note, a couple exciting new “roots” additions are drawing attention. One is Poor Old Shine, a band that was described by the New York Times as “a roots band with a grassroots ethos” and features an eclectic mixture of instruments such as mandolins, the stand up bass and pump organs. Another interesting act is Spuyten Duyvil, a 7-piece band with great energy and a traditional sound that dates back to over 100 years.
Of course, the two names that immediately draw attention for folk music fans are Jonathan Edwards and Chris Smither. Edwards is best known for his Gold Record winner “Sunshine” but has 4 decades of musical experience, has recorded 15 albums and has collaborated with musical greats such as Jimmy Buffet. Smither has had an equally long and storied career, including a close friendship with the legendary Bonnie Raitt who covered two of his songs, “Love Me Like a Man” and “I Feel the Same”.
In addition to the acts that you will see on stage all weekend, the fest integrates something they refer to as “workshops” and these are what make the New Bedford Folk Festival one-of-a-kind. These workshops are essentially jam sessions in which musicians from different bands come together and improvise based on a prompt or style given to them. For music lovers, this is a rare treat as you can experience the raw talent and creativity of these artists. This year, a couple established themes for the workshops include a tribute to Pete Seeger and a tribute to the Everly Brothers.
To read more about the musical performances and to see video clips of the performers, go to newbedfordfolkfestival.com/videos/. To stay up to date on the newest acts as they are added go to the festival’s Facebook page: facebook.com/NewBedfordFolkFestival.
2. The Crafts
Aside from the vibrant musical atmosphere found at the Folk Festival, the event features nearly 100 artisans who display their wares throughout the streets from 11 am to 7 pm. Items being sold will include; art, jewelry, furniture, decor and much more. It’s a great chance to purchase unique items that you cannot find anywhere else. Vendors are still being encouraged to submit applications to sell their goods, so if you or anyone you know is interested click here (http://www.newbedfordfolkfestival.com/food-crafts-2/) for more information!
3. The Food
Of course, no festival is complete without food and beverage offerings. In years past street vendors and food trucks have sold a variety of delicious items that range from snacks to full out BBQ and even seafood and vegetarian options. The event also features beer and wine sales for those who like to enjoy an adult beverage whilst taking in the sights and sounds.
The list of food vendors is still being finalized, but you can always be assured that Downtown New Bedford does not lack great restaurants, cafes and bars for you to stop into to grab a drink or a bite to eat. Location wise, the festival could not be better positioned for foodies.
4. Tickets, Time, Location and Parking
Tickets will be priced the same as last year and will go on sale in April. The “We Love New Bedford” tickets can only be purchased at the Whaling Museum or the Zeiterion Theatre and are discounted at $15 for the weekend pass. These special tickets allow more of the local community to attend and be involved. Tickets purchased online are $21 for the weekend pass if purchased in advance. They rise to $25 if purchased closer to the date.
This year’s festival will also feature a VIP ticket option. Festival organizer Alan Korolenko explained that many attendees wish to contribute to the event in a greater way, and this is how they can do so. VIP tickets are $100 each and will give patrons reserved seating, discounts at participating restaurants and other goodies like a festival tee-shirt. Korolenko noted that the reserved seating is especially beneficial for assuring seating at the Whaling Museum workshops, which tend to fill up quickly.
The festival starts at 11 am on Saturday July 5th and the Zeiterion Theatre and outdoor stages will feature music all day until around 6:30 PM when the music will move into the Zeiterion Theatre, wrapping the night up at around 9:30 PM. The same schedule will occur on Sunday July 6th.
The New Bedford Folk Festival will once more take place right in the heart of Downtown in the region known as New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park. Several stages are located throughout the downtown region, all within walking distance of each other. Click here to see the festival map (newbedfordfolkfestival.com/festival-map/).
Parking is free at both the Elm Street Parking Garage and the Zeiterion Theatre.
For the latest updates on music, vendors and ticket sales like the New Bedford Folk Festival Facebook page (facebook.com/NewBedfordFolkFestival).