An appreciative crowd cheers as Blues singer Sister Monica parker plays a gospel set on the Bangor Daily News Railroad Stage on Sunday during the American Folk Festival on the Bangor Waterfront. Credit: Kevin Bennett | BDN

The American Folk Festival in Bangor will look different for the next few summers; extensive construction on the Bangor Waterfront will force three out of the festival’s four stages to move around.

It’s not the first time the footprint of the festival has changed, though nothing significant has changed in six years.

“Our Dance Pavilion was originally set up where the Federal Courthouse currently sits, and our marketplace was on the banks of the Kenduskeag. So we are nimble,” Heather McCarthy, the festival’s executive director, said Tuesday in a statement announcing layout changes over the next three summers.

Since 2013, the Railroad Stage, the festival’s largest, has been located on the large grassy area adjacent to the Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion and across the street from Bangor Savings Bank’s newly opened waterfront campus.

But presently, the area is a construction site, as contractors are replacing pipes and a piece of equipment known as a sewage regulator. That work is expected to last through the fall, though contractors will temporarily halt work to accommodate concerts and other waterfront events.

For this year’s festival, the Railroad Stage will move to the usual location of the tented, seated Penobscot Stage. The stage itself will face the Joshua Chamberlain Bridge.

Credit: Ashley L. Conti | BDN

This means that the festival will lose the Penobscot Stage for 2019, but McCarthy said she and her fellow organizers intend to move the style of programming the Penobscot Stage has offered over the years — more acoustic and traditional performers, rather than full, electrified bands — into the Dance Pavilion. The Dance Pavilion — located toward the Hollywood Casino end of the waterfront area — will be renamed the Showcase Stage for 2019.

“We have very loyal fans of the Penobscot Stage programming who attend the festival every year, and we certainly have an army of dancers who come ready to move,” said McCarthy. “The Showcase Stage will make the best of a temporary situation by offering some acts that would be appropriate for the Penobscot Stage, but there will also be a dance floor.”

The changes to the Railroad and Penobscot Stages will only happen in 2019, however, as the Railroad Stage can return to its original site the following year, once the construction work is complete.

But 2020 will bring another set of changes as work begins on installing a 3.8 million-gallon sewage storage tank, to be buried in the ground in the area behind Tim Hortons on Main Street, along the waterfront.

The work, expected to happen over the summers of 2020 and 2021, will occur where the Dance Pavilion stage now sits, meaning the American Folk Festival will again need to move a stage to accommodate construction. Presently, McCarthy said organizers haven’t made a final decision as to where the dance stage will move.

Both projects are part of a multi-year, $63 million project that will cut the amount of raw sewage that flows into the Penobscot River during periods of heavy rain and snowmelt, as required by a 2015 consent decree with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

McCarthy said she and the festival board have been aware of the project for some time, and have been working with the city to find new sites for the various stages for more than a year. She also said that the changes will not affect the festival’s programming, nor will it affect the marketplace or food court.

The American Folk Festival is set for Aug. 23-25. Several acts have already been announced, and more will be revealed in the coming weeks.

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Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.