Participatory Citizenship & Participatory Arts

Last Tuesday, September 20, was National Voter Registration Day, which is “a day of civic unity. It’s an opportunity to set aside differences, enjoy the rights and opportunities we all share as Americans, and celebrate our democracy.”

With all the unity, celebration, and setting aside differences to enjoy shared opportunities, it sure seems a lot like a contra dance or the All Comers Band!  … But, what do democracy, citizenship, and voting really have in common with a local arts nonprofit?!?

Hypothetical label for a bottle of BFS elixir

Well… our social dance and music traditions are, as a past BFS board member put it, a bit like a magic elixir. The label could make all sorts of legitimately lofty claims, but the elixir’s effectiveness entails participation.

Which circles back to democracy, citizenship, and voting. Active engagement is the key!

Maine has one of the highest voter turnout rates in the nation, and that’s partly because of things like same day voter registration for in person voting, no excuses absentee ballots, and more. Let’s keep rocking the vote, with high participation by eligible voters of all ages & demographics! (Yup, just like the All Comers Band and the BFS contra dances.)

Here are some nonpartisan resources. Use them, share them, and get out there and vote! (If you’re from away, and can’t register to vote in Maine, get the scoop on voting in your state!)

Democracy Maine is a collaboration of three nonpartisan organizations, partnering on advocacy and education efforts:

The Maine Bureau of Corporations, Elections, and Commissions has a bunch of info, including these useful pages:

One more thing — Just like dancing and playing music with other people, voting can be really FUN. Absentee or at the polls, it’s a great chance to smile and see your neighbors.

So, go out there and have yourself some participatory fun!

  • Get ready.
  • Register.
  • Find out what’s on the ballot and what issues are important to you.
  • Remind your peeps to join you.
  • And VOTE, whether you do it early or on election day, Tuesday, November 8, 2022.

Remember… Democracy, Citizenship, Voting + Flying Shoes are all about participation!

Your Support for BFS and Participatory Arts

Happy late summer!  Since the start of 2022, it’s been uplifting to witness how music & dance can sustain a community. So far this year, more than 1,800 participants have connected with each other at Flying Shoes programs. Yes! In these uncertain and sometimes divisive times, such collective engagement and shared purpose is vital to the health and well-being of our entire community–neighbors, visitors, families, friends, and individuals of all ages.

We’re definitely committed to keeping the healing power of music and dance flowing in Midcoast Maine! 

  • First Fridays – The All Comers Band is back in all its glory, playing for exuberant dancers at Steamboat Landing in July and the Armistice Footbridge in August (+ upcoming at the YMCA in Sept)
  • School ResidenciesUkuleles donated by BFS were played by the Tri-Town Music Program participants at the Searsmont Library and by RSU71 students at their year-end performance. (Plus, BFS teaching artists gave uke lessons at two of the schools in the ‘21-’22 school year.)
  • Programs for Older Adults – Assisted living and congregate care residents sing along, tap their toes, sway, clap, laugh, and smile during the outdoor concerts featuring local musicians.
  • Music at the Reentry Center – Residents at the local corrections facility are taking lessons, jamming together, and even playing for audiences—on guitar, vocals, percussion, and fiddle!
  • Other Programs – WBFY radio show highlighting contra dance music; Resources for libraries and educators; Ragtime, Irish, Armenian, & Scandinavian music programs via partnerships with other local groups.

It truly feels like we’re emerging from a chrysalis and unfolding our wings to soar on the summer breeze. Such joy!

Indeed, our small nonprofit is kept aloft by all of YOU, our dear community.

We’re fortunate to have a mix of support, including grants and sponsorships, but we rely on the generous contributions of people like you, as we bring participatory dance and music to a wide swath of our community: those who already cherish it and–just as importantly–the folks who might not otherwise encounter its joys.

If you are impassioned about supporting participatory music and dance, there are many ways you can help Flying Shoes achieve the 2022 Annual Appeal goals. This year, we hope to raise $17,000 from 170 contributors, with 17 of those donors choosing to make monthly gifts. Here are two ways you can participate: Make a gift to the Annual Appeal and Spread the word by encouraging others in your network to join you in supporting Flying Shoes!

Give online:
Use PayPal, credit card, or debit card. Click the green “Make a Donation” button (scroll down, or visit )

Mail a check:   
Bypass the service fees! Belfast Flying Shoes, 93 Kaler Rd, Belfast, ME 04915

Be a “Frequent Flyer”:
When you give online, check the box for “Make this a monthly donation.”

Thank you for participating in Flying Shoes programs–as a musician, dancer, leader, teaching artist, student, attendee, volunteer, and contributor. Your involvement in music & dance helps our local and regional community thrive!

With deep appreciation,

Chrissy Fowler, Executive Director

Belfast Flying Shoes Board of Directors

  • Jennifer Armstrong
  • Margo Burnham
  • Cedar Callahan
  • Alex Mann
  • Alessandra Martinelli
  • Ethan Tischler
  • Kay Zegel

Scandi Shoes + Flying on the Bridge

Looking forward and reflecting back, shoes are really flying in August!

∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞

Scandinavian Dance Party Ahead = Finnish supergroup, Frigg

  • Saturday, Aug 13
  • 7:00 pm ~ Workshop on easy Scandi dancing with Andrea Larson of Virginia, accompanied by a local spelmanslag led by Bennett Konesni
  • Frigg plays for the Scandi dance party after the workshop! Open dancing any way that your shoes want to fly (whether you do a slangpolska, schottische or hambo,  or you wiggle your toes, cavort, tap or sway!)
  • $5 – 20 sliding scale suggested donation, to help BFS and Summer Nights cover costs.
  • Belfast Boathouse, inside, with a smooth dance floor & the big doors wide open
  • Jointly presented by Flying Shoes & Belfast Summer Nights, with support from Viking Lumber and Worth Real Estate
  • + Local Hero! Belfast’s own Noah Fishman is joining the Frigg tour as a sub for one of their regular members. We’re thrilled that Noah will be with Frigg to kick off the tour in our dear hometown!
  • 5:30 pm ~ Come early for Frigg’s concert at Steamboat Landing, presented by Bagaduce Music. The BFS/Summer Nights program follows the concert ~ first, the workshop by Andrea & our local spelmanslag; then Frigg plays for the Scandi Dance Party.)
“Nordgrass” supergroup, Frigg on Belfast Waterfront – Saturday, Aug 13 – 5:30 Concert presented by Bagaduce Music; 7:00 workshop & scandi dance party presented by Summer Nights & Flying Shoes

∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞

First Friday Recap = Euphoria on the Footbridge

Wow, another amazing 1st Fri! The weather cooperated, with breezes off the water and clouds that held their rain. Everyone was beaming, including the bemused pedestrians who wove their way through the joyful chaos.

Gratitude goes to Julia & Benjamin and the 23 talented musicians who joined them, scores of happy dancers and listeners (over 100 at the peak!), generous contributors to the admission can, the City of Belfast, Belfast Parks & Recreation, our First Friday Sponsors, and the folks fishing for stripers who kindly moved their poles and gear so we could set up.

Extra-special thanks to the volunteers who helped out before, during, and after the dance ~ All 23 of the ACB musicians, Christina B, Steve C, Joanne M, Lauren McP, Tara A, Ruby A, Alex C, Kate D, Gary B, Casey, and others who lent a hand on the fly! 

Enjoy these photos + the first verse of the newly-composed lyrics from a BFS dancer/musician.

(to be sung to the tune, Sentimental Journey, the foxtrot played by the ACB on 8/5)

Tonight’s the night, at last we dance a contra.
Gonna set our hearts at ease.
Like a child in wild anticipation,
We’ll renew old memories.

All Comers Band warming up


Julia McDonald-Plumb & Benjamin Foss leading the musicians
Long lines, forward & back
Dancing early on
Two contra sets, east and west
Shoes were still flying at sunset
What if someone wrote a tune called “Bonaparte Crossing the Passagassawakeag” as a change tune for “Bonaparte Crossing the Rhine”?

Photos of Belfast’s Shoes Flying Again!

We’ve sure had a lot of sunshine in Belfast … there’s so much to celebrate. Here are a few rays to share — with lots of photos!

This Week’s BFS Radio Hour Features T-Acadie!

Tune in this week for our second “live” show on the Flying Shoes Radio Hour. Pam Weeks, Bill Olson & Jim Joseph of T-Acadie offered up a bunch of tunes, songs, and stories in the WBFY Belfast Community Radio studio. (Chrissy Fowler hosted, and Vic Tredwell was our engineer.) Catch the good times on 100.9 FM WBFY-Belfast Community Radio at 6:00 pm on Fri. July 8, 1:00 pm on Wed. July 13, or streaming on demand all week!)

Bill Olson, Pam Weeks, and Jim Joseph getting ready to play a tune at WBFY during our in-studio recording session.

BFS Shoes Are Flying Again at First Friday Dances!

Wow, after 2 years and 4 months, we’re back to do-si-dos and stars and allemandes on first Fridays! July 1 was a perfect evening for our inaugural dance at Steamboat Landing. A band of 20+ All Comers joined T-Acadie in an overflowing gazebo, scores of dancers of all ages frolicked on the grass right up until dusk, and scattered groups of onlookers on lawn chairs watched cheerfully. As one person exulted via email afterward, “Hurrayyyyy!!!!”

Huge gratitude to everyone who came out to play, dance, and watch — especially folks who contributed to BFS for admission. Special thanks to Neil C, Nick S, Kay Z, Christina B, Liza O, Gary B, and others for helping out with setup, cleanup, and other essential tasks!  Additional thanks to Belfast Parks & Recreation Department and our amazing First Friday SponsorsColburn Shoe Store ~ The Green Store ~ First National Bank ~ First National Wealth Management ~ TFPE Civil Engineering ~ Coyote Moon.

Join us for the next First Friday Dance on August 5 on the Armistice Footbridge. All Comers warmup with Julia Plumb at 5:30, dancing 6-8pm. Details on our calendar.

All Comers Band and T-Acadie rehearsing in the gazebo
Circling left for La Bastringue
All Comers in good form
Looking upriver at the dancers and sky
All Comers Band and boats in the bay
Learning the schottische
Promenading in the walkthrough
Dancing in the park
Dancing under pink clouds
Joining hands in long lines


King of Ragtime: The Story of Scott Joplin

Mark your calendar and get your advance tickets for King of Ragtime: The Story of Scott Joplin — a multimedia extravaganza celebrating Scott Joplin, ragtime music, art, picture book illustration, and community connections – at the Colonial Theater on Sunday, June 5, at 3:00 pm. (Some fun details on our Facebook page!)

Local author, illustrator, and self-described “rusty piano player”, Stephen Costanza will share themes from his recent book, King of Ragtime: The Story of Scott Joplin. He will be joined on stage by Rita Brown on flute; Maria Keeler on violin; Edith Gawler on vocals, fiddle and calabash banjo; and Zeb Campbell on vocals, guitar and banjo. Pianist Alden Mills will play popular hits from the 1890s to the 1920s before the show, so arrive early!

In Dreamland at the Colonial Theater, 163 High St. $5 kids, $15 adults. Advance ticket sales at or available at the door. (Doors open at 2:30 pm.)

Masks are heartily requested, in accordance with the BFS public health policy, here.

What will the show be like?

This family-friendly show features live music, projections of art, animations, archival footage, some historical context, and a window into Steve Costanza’s process of writing and illustrating a book about a composer as amazing as Scott Joplin.

What’s Ragtime?

Here’s Steve at the tech run, explaining some features of ragtime music. Come to the show to hear more!

What’s the book like?

Published in 2021 by Atheneum, Costanza’s book has garnered accolades from critics and won the 2022 Golden Kite Award for Picture Book illustration from SCBWI . Described as “pitch-perfect” by Publishers Weekly and “a biography as bouncy and colorful as ragtime itself” by Kirkus, the “melodic, flowing text goes beyond Joplin’s personal details to paint a picture of what life looked like for African Americans during the Jim Crow era,” according to Booklist.  Left Bank Books will host a book signing in the lower lobby after the show, so you can get your own copy on June 5!

Here’s a video trailer of the book:

Who made this program possible?

BFS co-founder Annadeene Fowler and BFS director Chrissy Fowler collaborated with Steve Costanza to plan this event, and BFS is grateful for support and funding from the Belfast Free Library, The Colonial Theater, Left Bank Books, First National Bank & First National Wealth Management, No Axe to Grind, and BFS supporters.

Celtic Music at Mermaid Plaza 5/19

Belfast Flying Shoes and the Makers Guild of Maine present an evening of Celtic music featuring Seán Heely & Beth Patterson, with special guest Owen Kennedy, at Mermaid Plaza, One East Main St (Rte1/Rte3) in Searsport on Thursday, May 19. A 6:30 pm workshop for musicians kicks off the event, followed by a 7:45 pm concert. Sliding scale admission for the workshop is $5-20 sliding scale, and the concert admission is $10-25 sliding scale.

The trio’s high-energy repertoire focuses on Scottish and Irish tunes and songs. Seán Heely is a young champion fiddler from the Washington DC area, but he’s known locally for his teaching chops, such as his past work with the Acadia Trad Festival and his online lessons. In fact, Seán is one of Owen’s mentors, and the two award-winning musicians have shared the stage before, including in October 2021 when they played for a large and enthusiastic audience at an outdoor concert in Searsport. On May 19, Seán and Owen will be joined by the bouzouki-playing Louisiana native, Beth Patterson, who has been described as “a cross between a cobra and a puppy”.

This concert at Mermaid Plaza will be a great way to emerge from a long winter and cold spring! Get ready to tap your toes and let your shoes and fiddle bows fly to the exciting rhythms of this powerful music.

Read more about the performers in their bios, below:

Champion fiddler and singer Seán Heely is one of the most creatively versatile and captivating young artists of his generation. He is a U.S. National Scottish Fiddle Champion, an award-winning Irish fiddler, and a singer in the folk and Gaelic traditions of Scotland/Ireland. He holds a degree from the University of South Carolina in Classical Violin Performance and was a 2019 Artist-in-Residence at Strathmore Music Center in Maryland. An in-demand educator, he is on the adjunct faculty at American University and has been on the faculty of several music camps all around the U.S. Seán has performed with music icons such as Liz Carroll and Bonnie Rideout and continues to share his rich Celtic heritage with audiences around the globe. His debut solo album “Edge of the Bow” and duo record “Home Port” with Colin McGlynn as the Glencoe Lads have received critical acclaim.

Louisiana native Beth Patterson has played bouzouki (an Irish adaptation of a traditional Greek instrument professionally for thirty years. She has been featured in various lineups, ranging from traditional Celtic to myriad genres that typically don’t include the bouzouki, such as Cajun, blues, and metal. She began touring as a founding member of The Poor Clares before setting out on a solo career as a singer-songwriter. Beth studied traditional music and ethnomusicology with Micheál Ó Súilleabháin and Mel Mercier at University College Cork, Ireland, and hold a Bachelor’s degree in Music Therapy from Loyola University, New Orleans. She has performed in twenty countries and appeared on over two hundred recordings, including eight solo albums of her own. Seán and Beth met during one of her gigs in Norfolk, VA in 2020 and since then they have been creating new music together as well as breathing new life into their vast Celtic music repertoire.

Owen Kennedy is a teen-aged fiddler from Maine whose love of traditional music and enthusiasm for performing has captivated audiences from San Diego to the Shetland Islands and all over New England. He enjoys tunes from traditions beyond Maine, especially Scotland & Shetland, Cape Breton, Quebec & the Maritimes, and appreciates the challenge of playing true to the authentic style of a place and culture. Owen recorded his debut album Oh When: Now with Owen Marshall in February 2022. People have been asking for a while: “Owen, oh when will you have a cd we can buy?” Owen will soon be able to answer that question at upcoming performances! As an emerging musician rooted in the Maine Maritime music tradition and exploring the music of Scotland, the album includes the tunes he’s loved for years, as well as newer favorites from Shetland and Scotland. Owen made the best of the Covid challenges with various video projects including the ongoing 50 Fiddlers from 50 States Project and sharing music online.