Listening to music from more than a dozen different cultures is great. Listening to ethnic music while eating the accompanying ethnic food is even better.
Nineteen food vendors will cook up foods from around the world at the Lowell Folk Festival Friday, July 23, through Sunday, July 25.
Hundreds of people participate in the preparation and sale of the food, and organizers say more than $91,000 is spent locally on food products for the event.
The Lowell area has a very diverse population, and its many local churches and cultural organizations will be selling food at the Folk Festival to fund projects and programs.
“We’ve always wanted to have people from the different ethnic makeups of Lowell, but that isn’t strictly it,” said Phil Lupsiewicz of the Lowell National Historic Park. “It doesn’t have to be Lowell-centric.”
“Our festival provides attendees the opportunity to experience the foods of other cultures at extremely reasonable prices, so I think it is very common for people to sample throughout the weekend,” Lupsiewicz said.
There will be several vendors at the JFK Plaza, located at 50 Arcand Drive, where the Beat Ya Feet Kings, Lenny Gomulka and others will perform during the weekend. The Lowell Polish Cultural Committee, Jamaica Celebration of Life, the Armenian Relief Society of Lowell, and Portuguese American Center will each serve their own ethnic cuisines. The LAO United Church of Christ and the WAT Buddha of Massachusetts will serve Asian food, and the Hellenic Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity will serve Greek food.
Boarding House Park, located near the intersection of French and John streets, is another one of the main performance areas where delicacies from around the world will be available for purchase. Here you’ll find Iskwelahang Pilipino cooking Filipino cuisine, the Merrimack N.A.A.C.P. serving soul food, and the Lowell Latin Catholic Community of St. Pat’s making Spanish dishes. Also look for Jamaica Celebration of Life’s Jamaican food, WAT LAO Mixayaram Temple’s Asian menu, the Hellenic American Academy PTA’s Greek offerings, and St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church selling Middle Eastern dishes, all at Boarding House park.
“The public’s favorite for years has been the Filipino food near Boarding House Park. Lines start early in the day and they frequently sell out,” said Millie Rahn, one of the event’s organizers.
The third location where you can get some cultural chow is the Dutton Street Dance Stage near the Art in the Courtyard exhibit on the Merrimack Canal. If you’re worried about burning too many calories while boogieing to the beats of Clinton Fearon and the Boogie Band or swaying to Swamp Dogg’s soulful sounds, fear not, because there will be plenty of opportunities to refuel near the dance floor. The Laotian American Community of Massachusetts will sell Laotian food, Buddhachak will serve Thai cuisine, and Saint John’s Baptist Church will be making soul food. Transfiguration Greek Orthdox Church’s Greek pastries and desserts will also be available.
“These groups have been part of the greater community for some time, but we are always happy to seek and add more. Because they are volunteers, you can imagine it is a lot to ask for groups to commit for the entire weekend, but many do and come back year after year,” Lupsiewicz said.
Lupsiewicz noted that the festival will not have Italian food, and that they typically have a hard time finding an Italian cultural group to work the festival.
“Lowell has never had a strong Italian population,” Lupsiewicz said.
This year, there will be an educational opportunity for attendees. The Foodways presentation will be held at Lucy Larcom Park on Saturday and Sunday, from noon to 4 p.m., on the hour. Presenters will showcase different ways to cook beans from around the world. They will explain the history and traditions of beans from their area, and visitors will be given the opportunity to sample some of the bean dishes. Beans were selected as the theme because Lowell is famous for its Franco-American beans, especially those made by the Levasseur family, which runs Cote’s Market on Salem Street. Bean dishes from Nigeria, Puerto Rico, Portugal and Senegal will also be prepared during the presentation.