NEW SWEDEN, Maine — There’s no music festival in Aroostook County quite like Arootsakoostik.
There are plenty of bands that play original music or cover songs at summer fairs and festivals in The County. But it’s much rarer to see acts from across the state without leaving Aroostook. Or see those artists perform in one place, surrounded by fans tapping their feet, singing to the music and dancing in front of the stage.
That’s exactly the vibe that Travis Cyr believes he has created since the New Sweden musician created Arootsakoostik in 2006.
“I was playing at the Common Ground Fair [in Unity] in 2005 and what I saw made me think that Aroostook needed something like that,” Cyr said. “A festival dedicated to original music by Maine bands.”
Over the years, Cyr has used his connections with Maine musicians to bring some of the busiest touring acts in jazz, rock, country, bluegrass and folk to the northern Maine music festival.
On Saturday, fans filled the bleachers and climbed the small hill at Thomas Park in New Sweden, setting up folding chairs and beach towels. Most arrived at noon when the festival began and stayed into the evening, filling up on food truck fare or drinks and snacks packed into coolers.
This year’s festival featured a mix of genres, including funk and ska band Bad Combo, psychedelic rock band Dominic Lavoie and the Junction Butte Pack and Griffin William Sherry, the former frontman of Ghosts of Paul Revere.
Arootsakoostik has become a yearly favorite for Allagash resident Braigen McBreairty and her 9-year-old son Calvin, as well as friends AJ Theriault and Danielle Gates, both of Fort Kent.
The group dressed in flower-themed outfits, in keeping with the casual, peace-loving vibe of the festival. They all consider Arootsakoostik a unique experience for Maine music lovers.
“There aren’t a lot of places to hear music like this [in Aroostook] besides bars,” Theriault said. “This is just a happy environment.”
As the evening wore on, folks cheered on Toughcats, whom Cyr recalls playing with at that fateful Common Ground Fair. Everyone waited anxiously for one of Maine’s most popular acts, The Mallett Brothers Band.
Before attending Arootsakoostik this year for the first time, Tanya Argust of Mapleton had never watched any of the festival’s acts.
Argust looked forward to finally seeing The Mallett Brothers and said she enjoyed the mix of musical genres, including keyboard player Ben Cosgrove.
“I would go again,” Argust said. “The music here is all easy listening, like jazz and folk, which is what I like.”
During the over hour long set, The Mallett Brothers Band covered a variety of songs from their eight studio albums, including “Livin’ on Rock ‘n Roll,” “Too Much Trouble” and “Lighter.” One song, “Vive l’Acadia,” was inspired by the French Canadian roots present in much of Aroostook County and translates to “Long live, Acadia!”
Luke Mallett recalled playing at Arootsakoostik for the first time in 2013.
“We cut our teeth up here in Aroostook. Travis brought us up early in our career. We were playing with all these great musicians and were so intimidated,” Luke Mallett said. “Long live Arootsakoostik!”