Folk festival lands new coordinator; Bangor woman named 3rd chief in 15 months

This story was published on Nov. 05, 2002 on Page A1 in all editions of the Bangor Daily News

BANGOR – While the second year of the National Folk Festival will feature different performers than this year, there will be at least a few familiar faces behind the scenes.

Among them will be the festival’s new coordinator, Heather McCarthy, whom festival officials recently named to the top post after she served as assistant director for the event’s first year on the Bangor waterfront.

“I’m neck-deep in it already,” said McCarthy, 36, who became the third director of the Bangor festival in 15 months.

John Holden, vice chairman of the festival’s board of directors, said McCarthy was the natural choice to oversee next year’s event, which organizers say could attract upward of 100,000 people – up from this year’s 80,000 – to the riverfront.

“She’s been there from day one, and quite frankly she was the natural choice in terms of knowing what’s happened, what needs to happen and what’s going to happen,” Holden said in a telephone interview Monday. Later in the day, festival officials introduced McCarthy to the City Council.

The Bangor woman becomes the third person appointed to the position most recently vacated by 49-year-old Susan Pierce, who left in September citing “basic philosophical differences” with the board.

Both McCarthy and the festival’s board members shun the director title – preferring instead to call McCarthy the coordinator – a title she said better befits the job.

“We’ve got a really great team and that’s not really what I do,” McCarthy said of her aversion to the director’s label.

The appointment comes amid planning for next year’s National Folk Festival, which takes up three-year residences in cities throughout the United States and features traditional folk arts and music from all over the world.

By all accounts, the festival’s Bangor director – technically employed by the Convention and Visitors Bureau – has a demanding job in overseeing the massive event, which this year boasted more than 700 volunteers and cost more than $800,000.

More people means more performers, more money – and in some ways, more problems for organizers, who this year ran into trouble with too few food vendors and portable restrooms at the site.

Next year, McCarthy said, organizers will plan for 100,000 people, increasing the number of amenities as well as shuttle buses to and from the waterfront.

McCarthy’s appointment is perhaps the most visible change in the festival’s management structure, precipitated by the unexpected departure of Pierce, who left the post after nine months as part of a “mutual agreement” with the board.

The festival’s first director, Robert Libbey, left in November 2001 after only four months at the helm to return to his job as executive director of the Maine Performing Arts Network, an organization that connects performing artists and presenters in the state.

Both Holden and McCarthy said Friday they were unconcerned with the seemingly high turnover in the position.

“Clearly you don’t want that to happen,” Holden said. “But we’re very confident [McCarthy] will see it through.”

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