The 56th Newport Folk Festival is in full swing this weekend. Rhode Island Public Radio’s John Bender reports from Fort Adams State Park.
A marching band played as fans waited to enter the Newport Folk Festival. The event sold out well in advance, so thousands turned out before the gates even opened, eager secure a prime spot on the lawn at Fort Adams State Park.
Rhode Island-based band “Haunt The House” opened the festival with a heart-felt performance before a rapt audience, including family members, and local fans.
"It's something that I've always wanted to be a part of," said lead singer Will Houlihan about performing at Newport Folk.
Wearing a denim jacket and folk festival tee-shirt, Houlihan called it a dream come true.
"It's just a great place to be. Very welcoming, very warm," he said. "I started playing music as a release for myself, but I didn't realize I could take it this far, so this is a very big milestone for us but also for me as a songwriter."
Providence College student Aiden Preston worked as a volunteer at the festival. Standing in the middle of the wide-open lawn at Fort Adams State Park, he called it a great experience.
"I expected to come in here and volunteering, not to be near a stage either, and to be standing out here like this is the best thing I've ever had to do," he said. "It's the easiest job ever. I just stand here and listen to live music and tell people to recycle."
Stages were constructed on the seaside lawn and inside the gray stone walls of Fort Adams, a former army outpost overlooking Newport Harbor.
Stephanie Dancause of Warwick walked around with her husband and two toddlers.
"We have friends that come from out of state," she explained, noting this is the fifth year in a row she and her family have come to the festival.
"So they come from Georgia and Washington, D.C. every year, so it's just become a summer reunion thing," Dancause said.
Since moving from Brazil, Kai Kykrekel sees the Newport Folk Festival as a staple of her adopted homeland.
"I come every single year, since I come to America," Kykrekel said. "I can't miss it!"
For Kykrekel, the atmosphere is what attracts her year after year.
"I think it's the community. I think it's the fact that you have everybody out here, all sorts of different people coming together, no matter if you're from different countries, or different age groups, or different religions," said Kykrekel. "You're all here, and you're all here to enjoy the music."
It’s an attitude shared by many in the crowd. In a world of mega-festivals, with crowds 100,000 strong, Newport Folk is an intimate affair, capped at fewer than 20,000 tickets.
This year marked a special moment as the festival celebrated the 50th anniversary of the night Bob Dylan played his electric guitar for the first time ever in a live performance. It’s a moment that cemented Newport’s place in the history of rock music.