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If the weather is good, the festival attracts about 5,000 people per day. Organizer Chuck Wentworth said he wouldn’t want Rhythm & Roots to get much bigger than that. “We don’t want to lose that laid-back, family vibe,” he said.
The Rhythm & Roots Festival, celebrating its 20thyear, dances into Ninigret Park in Charlestown this weekend, with three full days of performances — Friday, Saturday and Sunday — on four stages.
Headliners on the main stage include the Squirrel Nut Zippers and the Mavericks on Friday, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and MarchFourth on Saturday, Rosanne Cash and the New Orleans Suspects on Sunday.
But the heart of this festival may well be the dance tent, which shelters a big wooden dance floor. There’s Cajun and zydeco music all day long (and well into the night) and the tent is almost always crowded with dancers.
Rhythm & Roots grew out of the much-loved Cajun & Bluegrass Festival at the Stepping Stone Ranch in Escoheag, run by Chuck Wentworth and Franklin Zawacki. When they parted ways, Wentworth and partner Mary Doub created the Rhythm & Roots Festival.
For its first year, it stayed at the Stepping Stone Ranch but Wentworth, who now runs Rhythm & Roots on his own, said the new festival needed a more spacious and accessible site. “We were busting at the seams . . . Ninigret was right off Route 1, it had plenty of space, plenty of parking. It was everything we needed,” he said.
If the weather is good, the festival attracts about 5,000 people per day. Wentworth said he wouldn’t want Rhythm & Roots to get much bigger than that. “We don’t want to lose that laid-back, family vibe,” he said.
The festival includes a family stage, which will feature Keith Munslow, the Hot Tamale Brass Band, storytellers Len Cabral and Marc Levitt, and a Mardi Gras parade each day at 5:15 p.m.
Rhode Island native Sarah Potenza has been performing at Rhythm & Roots since 2011, and she’ll be there again this year. She said it’s one of her favorite festivals thanks to its combination of music, dancing and food. Plus she gets to see family and lots of old friends. “That makes it very special for us,” she said.
As for the festival’s future, Wentworth said he wants to take it one year at a time. He said the “rhythm and roots” category allows for a lot of different styles. He’s interested in the possibilities of more Latin music at the festival.
“I’d love to go down to Cuba and take a look at that music,” he said. “But some things don’t change. There’s always going to be a lot of dancing . . . I like the way we have it set up. If you’re going to get food, you have to go by the dance tent.”
The Rhythm & Roots will be held Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Sept.1-3, at Ninigret Park in Charlestown. For schedule information and tickets, go to rhythmandroots.com.
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