Music to Their Ears
Bringing a popular folk festival to the waterfront started Bangor’s new groove, but the wave of pride and fresh prosperity has
Photograph Courtesy City of Bangor
It’s a simple fact: Music moves people. But in Bangor, it’s moving people to spend money — lots of money. A study done on the 2008 American Music Festival estimated that the show brought 95,000 people to the city, 22 percent of whom were in town specifically for the festival. All those visitors poured a whopping $10 million into the local economy, filling hotels ($605,106) and taking in the city’s array of great restaurants ($857,179). But festival-goers did more than support lodging and dining owners; they paid for the wages and tips of the 121 people employed in those establishments and funneled $2.8 million toward their families’ bottom line.
“It’s great, because you basically have to cross downtown Bangor to get to the folk festival, so people stop and buy coffee and check out the shops,” says Gina Platt, education coordinator at the University of Maine Museum of Art on Harlow Street. She says while the museum sees an increase in visitors during the festival week, the big spikes usually coincide when the weather is less than ideal for outdoor concerts.
Platt, like most Bangor residents, hosts friends every summer who come to town specifically for the festival. “I used to live on Mount Desert Island, and you could pretty much expect visitors at any time during the summer,” she says. “But this is a one-week deal, so you know exactly when people are going to show up.”
While there’s no denying the financial boost the city gets from the festival, it has equally important, non-economic benefits for everyone in the city, whether they’re at the waterfront or not. “I really like hearing the music, because it actually carries into town,” says Platt. “You leave the windows open and hear what’s going on.”