Thursday, August 20, 2009

On the road again ...

Here I am, packing again!! This time, it's just a quick weekend getaway. We're off to Johnstown, PA for the American Flood City Music Festival.

This event used to be the Johnstown Folk Fest and was held on Labor Day Weekend but running Friday through Sunday. For many, it served as a homecoming to the town they grew up in and hordes of people made the annual trek to see their loved ones and enjoy the festival.

Over the last few years the event has undergone numerous changes and it has become quite different. It used to be held in the Cambria City area of Johnstown and was combined with the Ethnic Festival which was organized by the various ethnic church congregations making up the many churches located within a 10 block area. A few years back, the Folk Festival committee purchased a portion of the old Bethlehem Steel plant property to create Festival Park, a permanent fairground type location. (A number of events in the city are now held in Festival Park.) This caused the two festivals to become separate events.

The Ethnic Festival remained in Cambria City, where most folks attended for the great variety of foods prepared just as they were back in "the old country." Each church featured foods of their ancestors and most had live entertainment throughout the weekend. The Irish church ran an Irish pub in the basement complete with a fully stocked bar, a traditional Irish menu and great Irish entertainment. The crowds there were always standing room only all three days! The Polish congregation had pierogies, "pigs" and more. Halusky and halupka were available. A variety of ethnic desserts prevailed. Lamb roasted on the spit in front of the Greek church. One church featured big band and polka type music all weekend (and cheap beer)!

The Folk Festival, (now downtown in Festival Park) with its large corporate sponsors, ran continual entertainment on four stages beginning Friday evening and running till about midnight. Entertainment on Saturday and Sunday began at noon and ran till 10 p.m. both nights. Music covered all genres - rock, blues, country, gospel, bluegrass, children's, classical, alternative, comical, soul and more. Performers were a mix of national, regional and local acts. Food here was more of the standard festival type and there were other standard things like children's activities, car and truck displays, community booths, etc.

Both events were free to the public and by the second year of the separation, there were free shuttle buses running between the two festivals. We went back and forth more than once during the days.

Within the past year, the Archdiocese demanded five of the very different ethnic congregations close their churches and form one. This seemed to sound a death knoll for the Ethnic Festival. However, the few churches that are left are valiantly attempting to do a festival this year on Labor Day weekend. it has been scaled back some and will cover a much smaller geographical area than the old 10-block strip. It will still be free and will feature entertainment and ethnic foods for sale.

The Folk Festival has changed its name in an effort to form a new image that they feel better defines their identity as a multi-faceted music event. Thus, the birth of the American Flood City Music Festival. To further establish their new identity, they've moved the dates of the event to this weekend, not Labor Day weekend. They feel this will give the college students an opportunity to participate before leaving for the semester away at school.

Since only a small portion of the music is youth oriented, those of us who have always attended and spent money at the event are a bit disappointed. We will only be able to attend on Friday and Saturday as most of us need to head home on Sunday. (In the past, we used the Monday holiday for travel.) I wonder if the trade off of students versus families will work out for the committee when it comes to spending ability. Also, a number of colleges in our area are already returning to campus so I need to wonder if this will turn out the way they think it will.

To top it all off, the festival committee has also instituted an admission "donation." I believe they need to call it a "donation" to maintain their non-profit status. Does that mean folks could supposedly not make a donation but still be admitted? This aspect does not phase us as we are used to paying fairly sizeable admissions in our area and feel the price they have set ($5 on Friday and $10 for each of Saturday and Sunday) is somewhat low. But will those students agree?

For us, this has always been a party weekend with three or four couples gathering at one couple's home for the entire weekend. We attend the festivals together, eat together and simply commune for the weekend. We enjoy each other's company even without a major event happening around us. We're looking forward to seeing close friends that we haven't seen in months. We don't want the festival to fail but we're hoping they do reconsider and change it back to Labor Day weekend next year. After all, it's tradition!!

I'll let you know how it went, complete with pics when we get back.


Dreary Mouse said...

Just saying hi. :) Following you now.

Ramblin Mama said...

Welcome aboard! Glad to have you join me.

Anonymous said...

We hope you enjoy the Cambria City Ethnic Festival over the Labor Day Weekend. Please Stop by and say hello at St. Mary's.
We've tried to create a comprehensive website that is updated as participant&performer info come in: