32nd Lowell Folk Fest Opens Friday

July 26, 2018 GMT

LOWELL -- The tents are going up. The sound equipment is en route.

You can start to feel the electricity in the air.

Yet again, we have arrived at that summer weekend -- when downtown is transformed, and hundreds of thousands of people enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes from countless traditions.

This weekend, beginning around 6:30 p.m. Friday with the annual parade, is the 32nd Lowell Folk Festival.

The free family-friendly festival -- with folk music, artisan crafts and food from around the world -- will offer something for everyone, said Kevin Dwyer, executive director of the Lowell Folk Festival. It’s his first year leading the annual festival.

“People young and old will all get to explore different cultural traditions,” Dwyer said. “They get to figure out what’s engaging to them.

“They’ll hear music they never heard before and fall in love with it,” he added. “They’ll see a band performing, and can’t walk away.”

As always, there will be a number of new artists from around the world playing at the festival.

Dwyer highlighted a few names who he’d regret missing this weekend. One is Rahzel, a beatboxer from New York City who has performed with The Roots.

He’s considered one of the best in the world at beatboxing, according to Dwyer.

“It’s amazing we get to have him for the festival,” he said of Rahzel. “He’s the best of the best.”

Another group Dwyer pointed to was Corazon de Granada from Spain.

They play Flamenco music, and are one of the most electrifying groups, Dwyer said.

“I want to check out everyone this weekend but not sure that’s possible,” he said.

The other genres at the festival include: blues, Cajun, polka, Colombian champeta, Hawaiian swing, bluegrass, salsa dura, Franco-American and more.

Folk music doesn’t necessarily mean it’s someone playing protest songs on an acoustic guitar, Dwyer said.

“It’s all about tradition, and passing those traditions down,” he said. “It can passed down through your neighborhood, your parents, your church.”

Those traditions also get passed down through food.

There will be plenty of those cultural delicacies this weekend in tents across downtown. The ethnic food tents are a major hit every year.

The Foodways area this year will feature “Flatbreads: Plain & Fancy.” There will be various flatbreads, including crepes and Lithuanian pancakes, and cooking demonstrations.

“You can see the similarities and differences from one culture to another,” Dwyer said. “It’s fun and entertaining.”

At the Folk Craft area, the theme will be “Painted, Plaited, Pounded, or Pulled.”

People will be able to check out a diverse array of crafts, including baskets, wooden flutes and steel drums.

As always, there will not be any entrance fee for the festival. Hundreds of volunteers with the Bucket Brigade collect donations for the festival. Those who donate receive a Mardi Gras style bead.

“We encourage folks to come out, enjoy the free festival and contribute to the buckets,” said Philip Lupsiewicz of Lowell National Historical Park.

“It’s a great opportunity to try something you never tried before,” he added. “That’s the beauty of it.”

The Lowell Folk Festival is presented by Lowell National Historical Park, Lowell Festival Foundation, the National Council for the Traditional Arts, the City of Lowell, the Greater Merrimack Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Greater Lowell Chamber of Commerce.

Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter @rsobeyLSun

Road closings for the festival:

LOWELL -- Several streets will be closed downtown this weekend for the 32nd Lowell Folk Festival.

Before crowds begin flooding the downtown Friday evening, police and other city employees will set up hard barriers to secure the festival footprint.

Hard barrier closing operations will begin on Friday at 3 p.m., starting at the intersection of Merrimack and Dutton streets, and Kearney Square. Crews will work their way around the festival perimeter, setting blocks at other key spots.

During this time, vehicle exits will be as follows: Market Street to Dutton Street, Merrimack Street via Shattuck Street to Market/Dutton, and Fr. Morissette outbound via Kirk Street where rolling barriers will be located.

Beginning at around 11 p.m. on Friday, rolling barriers will be moved and the streets will be open until 11 a.m. on Saturday, at which time rolling barriers will be reset. The same will happen from Saturday at 11 p.m. until 11 a.m. on Sunday.

All garages will be accessible throughout the weekend.

Downtown parking meters have started to be bagged on Arcand Drive from Merrimack Street to the Police Department driveway; Market Street in front of the mills; Merrimack Street in front of Subway; and Paige Street behind the Freshman Academy.

Other streets in the festival footprint will have meters bagged beginning Thursday; however, enforcement will not begin until Friday morning.

There will be no parking in any of the alleyways within the festival footprint.