Long-time National Folk Fest Volunteers Key to American Folk Fest
Though the American Folk Festival grew as an off-shoot from the National Folk Festival in 2005, the annual weekend in Bangor still has roots to the original event.Some of them are in the shape of volunteers, who’ve traveled thousands of miles over the last decade to be here.”This is where we store all the stuff, including everything out of the office that we own.”Richard and Betty Derbyshire know what it takes to make a folk festival work. They’ve spent years volunteering at National Folk Festival venues, traveling across the country from their home in Washington, D.C.A decade ago, Richard made the trip to Bangor – three years later, Betty joined him. And now.”We wouldn’t turn this one down,” Betty says. “And we have the option every year of working maybe 5 or 6 festivals. Put Bangor at the top and then we decide about the others. Right.”The Derbyshires are key to the volunteer team that turns the Bangor Waterfront into a city within a city for the American Folk Festival weekend. Richard is one of the technical directors, guiding the physical layout of the festival from start to finish. Betty helps run heart of the event – the operations center. Richard says, “You would be astounded at the number of requests she handles from lost children to medical emergency … to I need an extension cord. I need an extension cord! Hahaha! Yeah, exactly.”Despite the long days and hard work, the Derbyshires say it’s the community that keeps them coming back to Bangor year after year – and the chance to help the city come together. As Betty says, “Part of the folk lore of what we’re doing is showing people how things use to be. And part of that is talking to your neighbor, having fun with your neighbors and having a good time.”And they hope to be a part of that for years to come. Richard says, “Where else can you put on a party for 50-thousand or more of your closest friends and be intimately involved in the planning and the logistics and just the camaraderie of the work that it takes to put it all together. I sit at a desk job for the rest of the year, so coming out in the sunshine and doing this is a good time.”Last year was the first year the Derbyshires came without the rest of the National Folk Festival crew and equipment from Washington, D.C.That teamed headed to a new venue in Nashville.But the Derbyshires say the transition to a completely Bangor organized-and-operated event was a smooth one. And they believe the American Folk Festival has a solid footing for the future.