July 27, 2006

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From polka to bluegrass to Vietnamese eats
The 20-year-old Lowell Folk Festival offers a bit of everything
By Erica Febre efebre@hippopress.com

The Lowell Folk Festival turns 20 this year.

The three-day event, held this year Friday through Sunday, July 28 through July 30, takes place in downtown Lowell, Mass., and features a lineup of more than 20 musicians.

With six outdoors stages the lineup of performers comes from a variety of different categories of folk, from bands with a New Orleans flavor to polka to mariachi music. The event, which offers free admission to the shows, also features vendors selling a variety of ethnic foods and crafts as well as parades and dance.s

Inca Son, a Peruvian performance group, will bring music and dance of the Andes. Based in Cambridge, Mass., Inca Son has been a part of the Lowell Folk Festival for the last 10 years.

"We try keep our roots strong, using culture as a bridge to bring Peru to America. It's important for us to educate others about our culture and customs. We look forward to being a part of this year's festival, being that it's the 20th anniversary and we'll put on our best performance yet," said Cesar Villalobos, the founder of Inca Son.

A New Orleans group, The Hot 8 Brass Band, displaced by Hurricane Katrina last year, will make the journey north to take part in the festival as well. They've been busy doing a number of free performances back home for other displaced evacuees. Playing on donated instruments, the group expresses a gratitude for still being able to get together and play and, most of all, for having their livelihood.

"This will be our first time traveling that far north. People from New Orleans love New Orleans music. Since the hurricane, it seems that a lot of people are really gathering an interest in the New Orleans type music so we're going to bring that music to New England. We also have some evacuees that relocated to Massachusetts after the hurricane," said Wendell Cliff Stewart, the bands saxophonist.

A Polish polka group, Dennis Polisky & the Maestro's Men, based in Colchester, Conn. will bring their Grammy-nominated sounds for the bands first appearance at the festival. Celebrating their 10-year anniversary, the band is established as one of the nation' top polka bands.

"They're mainly a polka band but they play everything, attracting an audience from both the older and younger generations," said Karen Olszewski, the bands manager.

Bringing the sounds of electric blues is The Bobby Parker band, based in Maryland. The six-member band features a saxophonist, Blues Harp player, guitarist and bass player, drummer and piano player.

"We'e played all over the world but this will be our first appearance in Lowell. We're looking forward to coming to the festival," Bobby Parker, the bands guitarist, said.

The lengthy list of musicians features music styles ranging from Kentucky Thumbpicker by Eddie Pennington to Mexican Mariachi by Los Camperos de Nati Cano.

The Lowell Folk Festival is presented by Lowell National Historical Park, Lowell Festival Foundation, National Council for the Traditional Arts and the city of Lowell.


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