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After a year off, organizer bringing Arootsakoostik music festival back

NEW SWEDEN, Maine — After a decade-long run, Arootsakoostik organizer Travis Cyr cancelled the popular New Sweden music festival last year. But following the brief hiatus, Cyr says the show will go on this year and feature some of Maine’s biggest musicians.

The show typically brings in creators and listeners of music from around the state. This year the gates are set to open at 10:30 a.m. on July 7 at Thomas Park, with tickets at $25 per person. Children aged 10 and under get in free.

“Bring a good attitude,” said Cyr. “Respect the land, the park and its neighbors.”

Guests who “bring things they shouldn’t bring,” will be asked to leave, Cyr said, referring to illegal substances. He added that in previous years the festival has “never really had problems with that.”

As for why Arootsakoostik was cancelled in 2017, Cyr said a number of factors led to the show failing to materialize.

“It was never my intention to not do it last year,” he said. “It was just that a lot of things came into play where it was obvious that it wasn’t going to happen.”

Bringing the festival back was very easy, according to Cyr, who said he “really missed it” and heard from several fans who expressed similar sentiments.

The problems primarily revolved around difficulty booking acts, and Cyr said many performers had both “understandable and justifiable” reasons for not being able to make it. That, mixed with issues in Cyr’s personal life, led to the event’s cancellation.

“We felt that, since we’d done ten of these, the writing was on the wall for us to take a breather, refocus, and take some time to plan for the future,” Cyr said. “In retrospect, it was the perfect thing for us to do.”

Arootsakoostik in 2018 will be relatively scaled back, and feature fewer bands. Because of the smaller roster, musicians will have an opportunity to play longer sets.

While Cyr said that the festival wasn’t gone “long enough for people to forget about us,” he laughed while recalling a recent dream in which he hosted the festival “and no one came.”

Despite the smaller roster, the 2018 lineup will feature enough variety to elicit some head bobbing or foot tapping from nearly everyone, he said.

In addition to being the man behind the popular County music festival, Cyr is an accomplished and prolific musician himself, and will be opening the event.

“I’m playing first, because it’s my event and I want to welcome people,” he said. “I want to get it out of the way early; it’s not about me, it’s about featuring everyone else.”

Other acts include el malo, a Portland-based musical collective known for the members’ ability to merge world dance music with jazz fusion, an amalgamation they have dubbed as “salsacore.”

The Rugged, a trio from Waldo County who refer to their sound as “smokey backwoods voodoo rock,” and who are making a presence at Eureka Hall in Stockholm, are also slated to appear, along with Tricky Britches, a Portland-based four-piece band whose members blend elements of bluegrass, country, and rock and have played shows across the United States and Europe.

Hannah Daman and the Martel Sisters, a Portland-based trio whose folk music incorporates the guitar, violin, and mandolin layered with three-part harmonies, also will play the New Sweden show, along with Toughcats, a trio from the Fox Islands whose sound has been described as “garage rock-styled pop Americana.”

In addition, the Mallett Brothers Band and The Ghost of Paul Revere are slated to appear. Cyr said the two aforementioned acts are garnering national momentum, particularly with The Ghost of Paul Revere making their national television debut on Conan earlier this year.

“They are, bar none, the best our state has to offer,” Cyr said. “I couldn’t be more proud or excited.”

If the musical lineup isn’t enough, this year’s Arootsakoostik, like past events, will feature plenty of food for hungry guests.

“We had to scramble for food vendors but we have some wonderful stuff lined up,” Cyr said, adding that the guests will have plenty to choose from, including brick oven pizza, coffee, smoothies, and blueberry soda.

“We’re still looking for a burger-type vendor,” he said, “but rest assured, we will have all food bases covered.”

With ten plus years of orchestrating a County-based music festival, Cyr said he’s learned quite a bit in the process.

“One thing I’ve learned is that ideas and momentum are always at their hottest right on the heels of an event,” he said. “So you make that mental list of — alright, this is what we need to fix next year and this is what we should work on right now. We didn’t do it last year, but the festival got to the point where it was a matter of starting up the bus and getting it going so it just rolls downhill from there.”

Planning usually starts by sending emails to bands to see if they’re interested in performing, and from there, the pieces begin to fall into place.

“There are a lot of emails and phone calls to make to ensure I’m covering all the bases,” he said. “I want to feed these people, make sure they have a place to stay, print tickets, and line up sound guys. It’s a mental checklist, and it kinda gets easier over time, and you always have snags, but I love this stuff. It’s an honor and a pleasure to do it.”

At this point, Cyr is taking Arootsakoostik one year at a time, but said he plans to keep going as long as he is able and receives support from the community.

“I just want to thank everyone for their ongoing support and interest,” he said. “I’m incredibly fortunate and blessed to do this type of event where we live. I believe it makes our community a better place.”

Anyone interested in donating to Arootsakoostik can contact Cyr via email at travcyr@yahoo.com.

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