NEW SWEDEN, Maine — An Aroostook folk artist is using the return of a popular festival to bring in musicians from around the state, while supporting music and cultural arts programming in The County.
Travis Cyr, a folk musician who has toured across Maine and New England for more than 20 years, is bringing the Arootsakoostik Music Festival back to New Sweden on Saturday, July 9.
This year marks the initial Arootsakoostik since 2019 and the first time Cyr is partnering with a local organization to collect instruments for school music programs.
The festival will feature short and long sets from eight Maine-based artists and bands: Rockland guitarist Matt LaJoie, Portland bluegrass band Tricky Britches, folk artist Sara Trunzo from Liberty, Portland-based psychedelic rock band Dominic Lavoie and the Junction Butte Pack, Cyr’s band ThunderHeart Lion, the Portland big-band funk and ska band Bad Combo, folk band Ghost of Paul Revere and the Machias-based indie-rock band Milk and Honey Rebellion.
Festival headliner Ghost of Paul Revere is expected to be the most anticipated act of the day, Cyr said. Originally from Portland, the four-member band has garnered a national following that has taken them to venues such as Austin City Limits and Newport Folk. The band’s song “The Ballad of the 20th Maine” became the official state ballad in 2019. The band last played at Arootsakoostik in 2018.
Throughout the festival — to be held from noon to 8 p.m. at Thomas Park — people can donate any type of instrument or make a financial contribution to The Scott Brewster Music Fund . Anyone who donates receives a chance in a drawing for prizes.
Founded in 2016, The Scott Brewster Music Fund collects used instruments for school music programs and children whose families cannot afford new ones. Myrna Dixon of New Sweden launched the fund in honor of her cousin, Scott Brewster of Hudson, New Hampshire, who died in 2015 at age 44.
Though a machine technician by trade, Brewster was a self-taught guitarist who wrote and performed original songs and often visited family in Aroostook.
With many Aroostook schools struggling with tight budgets, Cyr said that providing for music programs has become especially important.
“Not every kid is going to play basketball or soccer. We need to offer options for everybody’s interests,” Cyr said. “Music and the arts are just as important as your math and English classes. Music brings people of all ages joy.”
Cyr said that many of the artists playing this year have performed Arootsakoostik in the past. After starting the festival in 2006, Cyr has taken advantage of his friendships with Maine musicians to create a line-up that many in Aroostook would not see otherwise.
“There’s really no place to hear original music in Aroostook, so it’s an honor to showcase these bands,” Cyr said. “There’s so much talent in our state and I want people to experience that.”
With COVID-19 putting festival plans to a halt the last two years, Cyr was uncertain until this spring whether he could safely pull off a return of Arootsakoostik. If July’s event is well-received, he hopes to make the festival annual again.
Most of all, he looks forward to sharing a love of original Maine music with visitors and people from Aroostook.
“Over the years this festival has become like a family reunion for the bands and people who travel up here,” Cyr said. “I’m most looking forward to seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces and being back together.”