Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Six Reasons You Should Come to Lowell this Weekend

Downtown Lowell is the place to be this weekend.  The 31st annual Lowell Folk Festival fills the downtown with some of the best traditional music from all over the world.  This is the longest running and second largest free folk festival in the USA.

Crowd Grooving to  Spencer Taylor and the Highway QCs at 2016 Lowell Folk Festival
Need a list of reasons to come to the festival? Here are six of them:

1. Music

This year's festival lineup features interplanetary jazz icons the Sun Ra Arkestra visiting from Saturn under the direction of 95 year old Marshall Allen. A chance to see the Arkestra -- for free -- is reason enough to come. Don't miss this chance.

The legendary CJ  Chenier and the Red Hot Louisiana Band are bringing the zydeco. And who doesn't love zydeco? You just can't help dancing when the crown prince of zydeco is playing.

We are especially lucky to have El Septeto Santiaguero, the leading son ensemble in the Cuban music scene. Cuban son is an amazing music and El Septeto Santiaguero keeps this centuries old tradition fresh and delightful.

I'm particularly looking forward to Brooklyn-based Innov Gnawa playing some hypnotic, mystical, fantastic Moroccan music in a centuries old tradition. This music transports you and it's absolutely irresistible.

Interested in America's indigenous cultures? The OngwehoƱwe Singers & Dancers bring Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) social dance traditions to the Lowell Folk Festival for the first time. You don't want to miss this.

Those are only a few of the highlights among the amazing lineup of musicians on the Folk Festival stages. Still need more music? There will be music all over the place. Restaurants, bars, coffee shops and the streets all add to the musical landscape. The Gentleman Songsters will be roaming the streets of downtown Lowell all weekend, so you might just encounter an impromptu barbershop quartet performance where you least expect it.

2. Traditional Khmer Ceramics

Meet Yary Livan, master ceramicist in the Folk Craft Area. Yary is a master of Cambodian ceramics and temple ornamentation. He carries on a tradition dating back to the 11th century, which was nearly extinguished by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s. A 2015 NEA Fellow, Yary is the only known Cambodian in the USA carrying on this living tradition. This is a great opportunity to see him demonstrate traditional carving techniques.
Yary Livan Demonstrating Traditional Khmer Carving Technique in Lucy Larcom Park (2013)
According to Folk Festival publicity you will also be able to see a firing of Yary's traditional Khmer kiln. The kiln is located on Aiken Street just across the canal from Father Morissette Boulevard. Check Folk Festival information for details on the timing. Stop by anyway just to see the kiln and read the informational signage to learn more about it.
Cambodian Wood Fire Kiln

3. Food

Tour the world's traditional cuisines without leaving downtown. Local churches and nonprofits showcase their ethnic food traditions to raise money for their community programs. My personal favorite is the loobie and rooz from St. George's Antiochian Orthodox Church. They have a way with green beans that I've never experienced anywhere else. Longtime crowd favorites are the lumpia and the turon from Iskwelahang Pilipino and the pierogi from the Lowell Polish Cultural Committee.  There's tons more delicious stuff to check out, especially the variety of African foods like Calla, a traditional Liberian donut from the Emmanuel Temple of Hope or pumpkin/squash stew from the pan-African menu served up by Christ Jubilee International Ministries.
The Food Booths at Boardinghouse Park

4. Baklava Sundaes

I know I already listed food, but the baklava sundaes from the Hellenic American Academy PTA are the most anticipated sweet treat of the entire folk festival. There are people who come to the festival just for the baklava sundaes. You have not experienced Lowell Folk Festival if you have not had a baklava sundae.

Baklava Sundae

5. Meet the Untitled Homies and the Mill City Slam Team

Saturday afternoon, noon to 2PM, is your chance to meet and experience the fabled Untitled Open Mic. There will be street poetry, music, dancing, and a feature by the Mill City Slam Team.  Swing by the street in front of Brew'd Awakening Coffeehaus to check out the action and to help send the Mill City Slam Team to Denver for the National Poetry Slam. There will be a merch table and a raffle.
Members of Mill City Slam

6. Tour B&M Locomotive #410

This weekend is your chance to look inside B&M Locomotive #410 and the Combine, which will be
open for visitors during the Festival at the Dutton Street Trolley Stop. Take a look at some of  Lowell’s railroading history and a model train layout. You'll also learn about the ongoing preservation and restoration efforts for this historic railroad equipment. 410 is one of only 5 remaining B&M steam locomotives and it's the only one in Massachusetts. It's not always open to the public, so be sure to take advantage of this opportunity on Saturday and Sunday during the Lowell Folk Festival. It will be open  from 11AM–5PM.