Volunteer! Without You, It Wouldn’t Be A Festival!
Lowell National Historical Park and partners are producing the 31st Annual Folk Festival in Lowell on July 28-30, 2017. For this grand festival to continue as the largest free folk festival in the country, we are recruiting more than a thousand volunteers. You could be one of them!
We are inviting volunteers, businesses, and organizations to donate their time and energy. Individual volunteers will continue to be the event’s backbone, and we are also recruiting teams of volunteers sponsored by businesses and organizations to:
- assist in set-up and take-down of stages and seating areas
- help with recycling and collection of trash and recyclables
- perform other individual tasks, ranging from the logging of performer music and the escorting and transportation of musicians to helping festival visitors to find their way around the downtown festival sites
- Bucket Brigade – collect donations at festival stages and throughout the festival grounds
For more information and/or to apply offline, please:
- Call the Lowell National Historical Park Volunteer Office at 978-275-1740, or
- Stop in at the Lowell National Historical Park Visitor Center at 246 Market Street, Lowell (free parking at 304 Dutton Street) and fill out an application.
Individuals and groups are encouraged to volunteer.
Please mark a few choices of jobs so that we may place you where you will be needed.
There will be a volunteer orientation meeting prior to the festival. All volunteers are strongly encouraged to attend.
All those who commit to at least 4 hours of volunteering will be given a Festival Volunteer shirt that we ask you to wear during your assignment for identification purposes.
Bucket Brigade Teams are integral to our fundraising efforts, collecting donations from our generous, happy festival attendees. We rely on our Bucket Brigade donations to keep our event free!
Your company or group can form your own Bucket Brigade Team.
Each team must make a commitment to at least a three-hour shift once during the festival.
Your team will:
- Be listed on our website
- Be given our official Bucket Brigade T-Shirts
- Be recognized from stages during the Festival
- Feel special for your community service!
- Have fun, fun, fun!
To set up your Bucket Brigade Team, contact the Lowell National Historical Park Volunteer Office at 978-275-1740.
How did this all start?
The Lowell Folk Festival came out of a festival tradition that started in 1973 with a series of community ethnic festivals completely organized by volunteers. Many of the folks who work year round on the event have been involved with festivals here for 30 years or more. Newer members often come through new generations of families that have been involved for decades. There is no question that the loyalty of this group keeps this event humming and it is critical to the on-going success the event has enjoyed. The festival continues to recruit volunteers from Lowell and the entire region.
Volunteer! Without You, It Wouldn’t Be A Festival !
Don’t miss Destination Lowell, your introduction to the arts and culture of this creative city. Located on Merrimack Street, Folk Festival 2016 features a dozen organizations offering information, giveaways, and lots more. This year you can also help keep the Festival funded by stopping by our survey table and answering a few questions about what brought you to Folk Fest 2016. Here’s who’ll be there:
The Lowell Historical Society: The Lowell Historical Society’s mission is to collect, preserve and publish materials related to Lowell and to encourage and promote the study of the city’s history. LHS sponsor several lectures and workshops throughout the year.
Lowell Celebrates Kerouac: Lowell Celebrates Kerouac! Inc. (LCK!) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote a better understanding and appreciation of Jack Kerouac’s life and literature. Founded in 1985, LCK! sponsors literary programs year round, including a festival in the first weekend of October. They also produce a spring program tied to Kerouac’s March 12th birthday, as well as other educational and cultural activities. LCK! volunteers help maintain Kerouac Park and Jack Kerouac Commemorative in Downtown Lowell.
Lowell Parks and Conservation Trust: The Lowell Parks & Conservation Trust (LP&CT) is a private, non-profit land trust located in Lowell, Massachusetts. LP&CT was founded in 1990 by residents with a vision to protect the natural resources upon which the city of Lowell was built. LP&CT provides conservation leadership and programs which focus on four major areas: land protection, stewardship, environmental education, and special places.
Merrimack Valley Antique Bottle Club: The Merrimack Valley Bottle Club meets once a month in Chelmsford and organizes an annual antique bottle show and sale. This year the event will be held at the Westford Regency Inn and Conference Center. The event features more than 80 dealers of antique bottles and glass.
Mill #5: Mill No. 5 offers loft spaces for tech start-ups, artists, and independent retail. It is a dining, shopping and entertainment destination with a farm-to-table cafe, a unique variety of shops and an independent movie theater. The interior of the mill is composed of salvaged historic buildings from throughout New England, arranged as an interior streetscape. The mill was built by an ancestor of Andy Warhol’s muse, Edie Sedgwick, in 1828.
Merrimack Repertory Theatre: Merrimack Repertory Theatre produces vibrant contemporary plays that explore the heart, humor, and complexity of our relationships. The intimate 279-seat theatre gets audiences close enough to the stage to realize every nuanced detail of the acting and designs created by leading theatre professionals from around the country. Founded in 1979, Merrimack Repertory Theatre is a professional, non-profit theatre company with a mission to “to advance the cause of human understanding through the art of theater.”
Pollard Memorial Library Foundation: The Pollard Memorial Library is a vibrant community hub and Lowell’s gateway to knowledge, meeting the information needs and enriching the quality of life in our community. The mission of the library is to provide diverse collections, state of the art technology, appealing programs and services to Lowell’s diverse population in a safe and welcoming environment.
The Gentlemen Songsters: The Gentlemen Songsters are devoted to enriching lives through singing. They perpetuate and celebrate harmony in the barbershop style and provide the opportunity to experience the joy of 4 part acapella singing. Hire them for you next event!
Western Avenue Studios: Western Avenue Studios is home to 245 working artist studio spaces, working in all mediums at all levels of experience. The artist community that has grown since its inception in 2005 is one of the largest on the East Coast. Western Avenue artists open their studios and lofts on the first Saturday of every month, inviting the public to explore and experience the creative process and purchase art direct from the artists themselves.
The Whistler House Museum: The Whistler House Museum of Art, birthplace of artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler, was established in 1908 as the permanent home of the Lowell Art Association. Founded in 1878, the Lowell Art Association owns and operates the museum as an historic site. Built in 1823, the Whistler House represents the richness of the history and the art of Lowell. This museum maintains its permanent collection of 19th- and early-20th-century New England representational artists and organizes contemporary and historical fine arts exhibitions in the adjacent Parker Gallery.
Lowell Memorial Auditorium, Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell: The Lowell Memorial Auditorium and The Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell play starring roles in the region’s cultural and entertainment scene bringing internationally acclaimed musicals, performances and NCAA Division 1 sports to the Merrimack Valley. Grand architecture, a magnificent setting along the Concord River and elaborate renovations has made Lowell Memorial Auditorium the venue of choice in the region. The Tsongas Center features a beautifully landscaped outdoor area, a spacious lobby, and function rooms overlooking the Merrimack River. It is the perfect venue for a variety of events, from business meetings to major shows.
Come on down and learn about Lowell!
Commercial vending is restricted during the Lowell Folk Festival. If you are a commercial vendor who would like information about vending permits during the Festival, please contact Craig Gates, Executive Director of the Lowell Festival Foundation, at (978) 275-1764 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The restricted area is outlined in the map below. Only Lowell Folk Festival authorized vendors are allowed to vend in the areas inside of the red line. Download a pdf of the 2015 Folk Festival Vendor Restriction Map.
If you’re interested in sharing your traditional foods with festivalgoers as one of the ethnic food vendors at the 2016 Lowell Folk Festival, please contact one of the ethnic food committee co-chairs, Pauline Golec (email@example.com) or Janis Malisewski (firstname.lastname@example.org).
2016 A Sampler of Traditions
Lucy Larcom Park, Saturday & Sunday, 12 – 5 p.m.
This year we celebrate 30 years of presenting craft artists at work. You may see familiar faces as we feature some of the most skilled and engaging individuals who have demonstrated over the years and welcome new ones to the festival. Their work is inspired by the human urge to make music, to celebrate, to commemorate, to worship, to adorn, or to delight the senses. Like the music heard on festival stages, these craft traditions have been handed down within families, ethnicities, occupations, or apprenticeships.
Walk through the folk craft area and you will observe master craftspeople carving letterforms in stone, working clay, marbling paper, and carving fruit so stunningly it defies eating. Watch musical instrument makers plane a plank of spruce or insert a decorative inlay. Marvel at the material culture of Lithuanian mid-summer. Pose in one of the Hat Ladies of Fiesta’s creations as you learn how one venerable tradition spawns a new one. You will even have the chance sit down and experience culture-specific traditions of folk beauty that originate in Africa and India, and continue in American communities.
2016 Craft Artists
Ruben Arroco, Lowell, MA
The art of fruit and vegetable carving is said to have originated in Thailand over 700 years ago. Ruben Arroco learned to carve during his training as a hotel chef in the Philippines. “There is a place in the Philippines where people there make a living carving wood. Some of those guys, I was lucky enough to work with in the hotel. If you can carve wood, you can carve [fruit] — so I kind of learned it from them.” Ruben went on to work as an executive chef for 30 years before starting his own business, Culinary Artworks, Inc. here in Lowell. He regularly does carving demonstrations at regional tech schools and was recently recognized by the American Culinary Federation for mentoring the next generation of chefs.
Ruben uses a specialized stainless steel to make most of his own tools. “Even just making simple V-cuts transforms it and gives it that nicer look. Separation of the petals from the part that you carved, that’s very important.” One might wonder how it feels to make art that is so stunning, yet so ephemeral. After delivering his carved fruit, Ruben often gets a call back from the host saying, “We have a problem. Nobody wants to touch it!”
The Hat Ladies of Fiesta
Robyn and Amy Clayton, Gloucester, MA
Sometimes an old tradition spawns a new one. Sisters Robyn and Amy Clayton are known around Gloucester as “the Crazy Hat Ladies of Fiesta.” Their outlandish hats have become an integral part of Saint Peter’s Fiesta, which recently celebrated its 90th year. The annual festival honoring the patron saint of fishermen is part religious devotion, part ethnic pride, and part boisterous revelry. Throughout the five-day festival, Greasy Pole competitions, Seine boat races, music, and dancing engage visitors. Fiesta also features a carnival, a temporary altar and outdoor mass, and a blessing of more than100 Italian-American fishing vessels.
Each year, the Clayton sisters make new hats that replicate in miniature key elements of Fiesta e.g., church facades, temporary altars, St. Peter, working carnival rides, and Ambie the sausage man. Sometimes, their hats serve as visual commentary on local political controversies. On Sunday of Fiesta, a parade lasting over three hours marches through town, featuring religious groups carrying elaborate statues honoring Saint Peter, Mary, Jesus and others, while shouting prayers and salutations, “Viva! Viva! Viva San Pietro!” Robyn and Amy will be right there in the midst of it, more than happy to pose for pictures.
Come take a close look at the hats’ details and find a photo-op behind the cut-out of St. Peter.
Guitars and Puerto Rican Cuatro Making
William Cumpiano, Easthampton, MA
Since completing his apprenticeship under master luthier Michael Gurian in 1970, William Cumpiano has created hundreds of individually-crafted guitars and other stringed instruments in the European, North American, and Latin American traditions. His work has become inseparable from an all- consuming quest to recover the social history, music, and traditional construction of the cuatro, a ten-stringed instrument that is the national cultural icon for Puerto Ricans all over the world. More recently, he has helped revive three native string instruments of Puerto Rico: the tiple, bordunua, and tres. Once ubiquitous in the Puerto Rican countryside during the 19th century, these musical instruments all but disappeared during the first half of the 20th century.
William works with exotic woods, sourced from all over the globe. In recent years, however, he has undertaken the project of substituting renewable local timbers to replace endangered rainforest hardwoods. In addition to making instruments, Cumpiano has taught his craft for over 20 years out of his studio, in schools, during workshops and lectures, and through numerous publications. He has been awarded multiple traditional arts apprenticeship grants by state and federal arts agencies to pass the craft of cuatro making on to Puerto Rican youth.
Stephen Earp, Shelburne Falls, MA
Redware is the common name for domestic pottery produced in New England between the 17th and 18th centuries. Redware was made primarily to meet the daily needs of preparing, serving, and storing food. On occasion, redware also served commemorative and decorative purposes.
Stephen Earp is an accomplished ceramicist who has made the study and practice of making traditional pottery his focus. After completing an apprenticeship with the protégé of a Japanese National Living Treasure potter, Earp worked with traditional potters in Central America, Africa, and Europe. But it was while working at Old Sturbridge Village and encountering redware, that he found his calling.
Earp’s pottery uses imagery inspired by the slip-trailed designs of New England redware potters. Other sources of inspiration include Pennsylvania tulip ware and the slipware pottery of Devon, England. Most of Earp’s pottery is thrown on a wheel that he designed and built. He uses local materials, including clay from a family owned pottery in Sheffield, Massachusetts, which mines clay from a local seam. His glazes include ashes from the hay of a nearby farmer.
Since 2007, Stephen has been included in Early American Life Magazine’s annual National Directory of Traditional American Crafts. Earp was named a Traditional Arts Finalist in the Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Fellowship Program in 2008 and 2016.
Carving Letterforms in Stone
Jesse Marsolais, Millbury, MA
Before opening his own printing and letter carving business, Jesse Marsolais spent six years working alongside master letterpress printer John Kristensen at Firefly Press in Boston. Years of composing foundry and metal type for letterpress printing turns out to be excellent experience for embarking on the daunting task of designing and laying out letterforms to be cut in stone. A six-week apprenticeship under master letter carver and National Heritage Fellow Nicholas Benson at the John Stevens Shop in Newport, Rhode Island, didn’t hurt.
Jesse’s recent commissions include alphabets carved in stone, signage for businesses, memorial stones, and house numbers. His raw materials are stone: Vermont slate, pink Tennessee marble, or variegated beach stones. The letterforms are designed by painting with a chisel-edge brush. Next, the carving begins with chisel and mallet. Each character is created by a V-cut, which brings out the contrast between light and shadow. Chasing the edge of a chisel to form the letters takes a steady hand; one false move and the letter is ruined, hence the saying, “written in stone.” It is a time-consuming process. Once complete, the letterforms are either left unembellished or they can be painted or gilded and oiled.
Greek Bouzouki and Oud Making
Chris Pantazelos, Lowell, MA
A luthier for the past 30 years, Chris Pantazelos specializes in building and repairing the stringed instruments heard in Greek, Armenian, and Turkish music. Walk into his Lowell shop, Spartan Instruments, and you will see bouzoukis, ouds, mandolins, and santouris lining the walls and workbenches. Some await repair; others are in the process of being created. Although bouzouki building is very widely practiced in Greece, it is rare to find a luthier in the United States who personally completes every step in constructing this instrument. Pantazelos takes great pride in doing just this.
Born in Greece, Chris immigrated to the United States at the age of 19. In 1985, he met master luthier and National Heritage Fellow Peter S. Kyvelos of Unique Strings, with whom he began an apprenticeship. At the time, the Belmont shop was known around the United States as the epicenter of instrument making by Greek, Armenian, and Middle Eastern musicians.
An inquisitive and inspired maker, Chris is always looking for new ways to improve the sound of a musical instrument. Ask him how variations in wood thickness, joinery, and the number of frets can alter the tone of a stringed instrument. And what about those beautiful inlaid designs?
Lithuanian Summer Solstice Celebrations
Jonas Stundžia, Lawrence Massachusetts
Jonas Stundžia is a Lithuanian folklorist active the Romuva movement, which is dedicated to the preservation of ancient Baltic folkways. Mesmerized by the Lithuanian culture in which he grew up in Lawrence, his interaction with elderly immigrants was more than an ethnological study, but an immersion that became a worldview and lifestyle.
Wreaths and garlands are an important part of the Summer solstice celebration known as Rasos or St. John’s Day. After long winters limited light per day, the return of the sun is a major event and there are numerous references to the sun in folk songs and folk art. Water, fire, flowers, and the sun are important elements to the festival. Garlands of herbs, grasses, and wildflowers adorn people’s heads, waterways, structures, and gates. People float wreathes with candles on the water and burn garland figures on poles to guide the sun back through the short night. Garlands can tell the future and bring fortune, and even a spouse if it lands in a branch of a birch tree. Ferns mystically bloom at night while the sun skips in the sky by day.
On this holiday, all people named Jonas are decorated with oak wreathes on their heads, for they are a special component of the feast day. This could be why “Jonas” is the most common name in Lithuania.
Mehndi Bridal Art
Noureen Sultana & Danish Khan, Framingham, MA
It is customary in India, Pakistan, and parts of the Arab world for brides to decorate their hands and feet with intricate henna designs called mehndi. Traditional mehndi often includes floral motifs, lines, dots, and paisley to create this remarkable “wearable” yet ephemeral art that is also used for religious and seasonal festivals like Eid ul Fitr , Eid ul Adha , Diwali, Navaratri and Karva Chaut.
Noureen Sultana, who grew up in Hyderabad, India, is a master of henna art. She learned from her mother Zaheer Unnisa Begum, who learned from her mother Mehmooda Katoon. Noureen has also begun teaching her two sons to do mehndi in order to carry on this family tradition. Working with her today is her son Danish Khan. Noureen prides herself on creating unique designs and is in high demand among Indian, Pakistani, and Middle Eastern brides in New England, doing 85 to 90 weddings a year.
While Noureen’s mother practiced a very traditional style of henna, Noureen has been exposed to and embraced a multitude of cultural influences that inspire her to innovate. She has set her sights on expanding the realism of henna art, applying traditional techniques to a variety of new media.
Think about how are other traditional practices of folk beauty are transformed when practitioners immigrate to a new country.
Kolam Art: Daily Ritual
Tamil Makkal Mandram, Inc., Bedford, MA
Kolam art has been practiced by women throughout southern India for hundreds of years, with mentions dating back to the Ramayana. These brightly colored rice flour designs adorn the thresholds of homes and temples every day, as well as streets and sidewalks at festival times. During the month of Margazhi Masam (mid-December to mid-January), many women wake up before dawn to begin preparing designs in front of their homes which take several hours to complete. Once finished, neighbors compare each other’s designs in an informal competition.
Kolam designs range from highly organized to freehand. Geometric designs are started by laying down a grid of dots which are then connected by drawing lines or curves using white rice flour or stone dust. Once all the lines are connected, colors are added to fill in the design. Some kolam are used specifically for holy days and locations, while others are more secular and celebratory. Though types and designs may vary widely, all kolam have deep symbolic meaning.
Priya Karthigai and Sridevi Karthikeyan all grew up in Tamil Nadu in southern India and learned this daily but ephemeral art from their mothers. In India, the time spent creating kolam together is recalled fondly as being warm and social. Although American life does not make it easy, these women still use kolam here as a tool of connection, both culturally and spiritually.
Hair Culture from Africa to America:
Sellou Coly &Lujuana Hood, Springfield, MA
Margy Green, Chicopee, MA
For Africans and African Americans, “Hair is power,” says Lujuana Hood, director of the Pan African Historical Museum USA in Springfield, Massachusetts.
In Senegal, the birthplace of master braider Sellou Coly, hairstyles can convey essential information about the wearer and her position in society. Cultural traditions also reinforce the power of hair braiding. The Senegalese believe that a person’s soul rests in the crown of the head, so when the braider is done, she will knock on the crown of the client’s head to make sure that her spirit hasn’t crossed over into the braider.
In America, Black hairstyles not only express personal aesthetics, but also the historical struggle for cultural self-determination and power. In the wake of the Civil Rights movement, African Americans looked to Africa for inspiration. By the time master braider Margy Green was growing up in New York in the 1990s, African hair braiding had become an American tradition as well.
Sellou first learned her craft by braiding corn silk as a child in Senegal; Margy’s first “client” was her Barbie doll. As a devout Muslim, Sellou chooses only to braid with clients’ natural hair, while Margy often uses “extensions” to supplement the styles she braids. Together they demonstrate the diversity of this beautiful and powerful art.
Chena River Marblers
Regina & Dan St. John, Amherst, MA
Regina and Dan St. John run Chena River Marblers in the Pioneer Valley, a region known for book arts. They produce stunning marbled patterns on paper and silk.
The process of marbling is almost magical. A bath of water and a thickening agent, such as carrageenan (dried seaweed) is prepared, which allows the paints to float on the surface. Alum-treated paper is gently laid on top to pick up the patterns.
Regina works mostly using acrylic paints for her silk and paper marbling. Dan points out one of her enviable talents, saying, “Genie has got a perfect pitch for colors.” Complimenting this is Dan’s background as a physics and chemistry teacher, which gives him grounding in the chemical makeup of materials and processes.
Dan builds the equipment, including the many different style combs which, when pulled through the bath, create unique patterns. Because no paint company manufactures colors specifically for marbling, Chena River Marblers create their own paints (grinding up pigments, adding binders, mulling them together), which allows them more control in how they will spread on the liquid surface. Dan favors old style marbling done with watercolors, where he creates tiger eyes.
Together, Genie and Dan St. John convey a passion for the marbling craft, a facility for teaching, and a dedication to passing on the tradition.
Maggie Holtzberg (Folk Arts & Heritage Program), Massachusetts Cultural Council
Art in the Courtyard 2017
Applications are now available to participate in Art in the Courtyard at the 2017 Lowell folk Festival! Click here to apply!
The Lowell Folk Festival presents Art in the Courtyard Arts and Fine Crafts, a venue of the Lowell Folk Festival in Lowell, Massachusetts, Saturday and Sunday, July 28 & 29, 2017. Art in the Courtyard is coordinated by the Brush Art Gallery. This exciting collaboration provides an opportunity for visitors to view and purchase some of the finest art and craft work.
Art in the Courtyard is held in the shaded, brick-lined courtyard between the National Historical Park Visitor Center and the Brush Art Gallery. Tents will be set up to provide a welcoming place, rain or shine. Conveniently situated between Market Street and the Dutton Stage, one of the main music and dance stages of the Folk Festival, Art in the Courtyard is a high-traffic spot during the festival. Local artists will also be displaying and selling their artwork at the neighboring Brush Art Gallery and Studios, creating a strong center for art and fine crafts for the Lowell Folk Festival.