NEW SWEDEN, Maine — An Aroostook folk artist is taking advantage of the return of a popular festival to bring in musicians from across the state, while supporting the county’s music and arts programming.
Travis Cyr, a folk musician who has toured Maine and New England for more than 20 years, is bringing the Arootsakoostik music festival back to New Sweden on Saturday, July 9.
This year marks the first Arootsakoostik since 2019 and the first time Cyr has partnered with a local organization to collect instruments for school music programs.
The festival will feature short and long sets from eight Maine artists and bands: Rockland guitarist Matt LaJoie, Portland bluegrass band Tricky Britches, folk artist Sara Trunzo of Liberty, Portland psychedelic rock band Dominic Lavoie and the Junction Butte Pack, Cyr’s ThunderHeart Lion, Portland big-band funk and ska band Bad Combo, folk band Ghost of Paul Revere, and Machias-based indie-rock band Milk and Honey Rebellion.
Headlining the Ghost of Paul Revere festival should be the most anticipated act of the day, Cyr said. Hailing from Portland, the four-member band has garnered a nationwide following that has taken them to venues such as Austin City Limits and Newport Folk. The band’s song “The Ballad of the 20th Maine” became the official state ballad in 2019. The band last performed at Arootsakoostik in 2018.
Throughout the festival — which will be held from noon to 8 p.m. in Thomas Park — people can donate any type of instrument or make a financial contribution to the Scott Brewster Music Fund. Anyone who donates gets a chance in a raffle for prizes.
Founded in 2016, the Scott Brewster Music Fund collects used instruments for school music programs and children whose families cannot afford new ones. Myrna Dixon of New Sweden started the fund in honor of her cousin, Scott Brewster of Hudson, New Hampshire, who died in 2015 at age 44.
Although a machine technician by trade, Brewster was a self-taught guitarist who wrote and performed original songs and often visited his family in Aroostook.
With many Aroostook schools struggling with tight budgets, Cyr said providing music programs has become especially important.
“Not all children are going to play basketball or football. We have to provide options for everyone’s interests,” Cyr said. “Music and the arts are just as important as your math and English lessons. Music brings joy to people of all ages.
Cyr said many of the artists performing this year have performed Arootsakoostik in the past. After launching the festival in 2006, Cyr took advantage of his friendships with musicians in Maine to create a lineup that many Aroostooks wouldn’t otherwise see.
“There really isn’t a place to hear original music in Aroostook, so it’s an honor to feature these bands,” Cyr said. “There is so much talent in our state and I want people to experience it.”
With COVID-19 having put a halt to festival plans for the past two years, Cyr was unsure until the spring if he could safely stage a return of Arootsakoostik. If the July event is well received, he hopes to make the festival an annual one again.
Above all, he looks forward to sharing his love of original Maine music with visitors and Aroostook locals.
“Over the years this festival has become like a family reunion for groups and people who travel here,” Cyr said. “I can’t wait to see the smiles on everyone’s faces and to be together again.”