NEW BEDFORD — The New Bedford Folk Festival, which celebrated its 25th year in the streets of downtown this past July, is shutting down. The news unleashed memory after memory on Facebook from fans and musicians alike. 

“Unfortunately, rising costs and post-pandemic expense increases made the festival financially unsustainable,” reads the announcement posted on the festival’s website Friday, signed by Alan and Helene Korolenko, the festival’s musical directors, and Rosemary Gill, president and CEO of the Zeiterion. “While other options were explored, ultimately, the decision was made for the festival to go out on a high note.”

Alan Korolenko said the Zeiterion, which took over as producer of the festival in 2016, issued its decision this week and that he and Helene had communicated to the Z that they would honor whatever was decided. 

Gill told The Light it was a combination of “crazy expenses” and good timing (with the festival reaching 25 years), noting some production expenses more than doubled last year. She said it’s not a decision they took lightly, and that they considered scaling down, increasing ticket prices, relying on city funding, grants and finding other financial sponsors before determining it wouldn’t be economically sustainable.  

“We loved that we could be involved with it for these few years,” Gill said. “We were definitely torn about the decision, but ultimately we felt that the festival really deserved to go out on a high note.”

Korolenko said the COVID-19 pandemic has been a difficulty for many businesses, and likely affected the festival, too. 

After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, musicians took to several stages, and craft and food vendors took to the streets, drawing thousands of people to the city and its businesses this summer for the two-day festival.

“It never dawned on us when we started this under Summerfest that it would become what it became. Never did I think there would be so many people so dedicated to an event,” Korolenko said. “It’s hard to thank people enough for the support from the city, from the Zeiterion, from the other entities that we worked under, and then an audience that just kept coming, and that’s what kept us going.”

Back in 2015, the festival’s future was uncertain after the Korolenkos, the longtime managers, said they were stepping down, the Standard-Times reported. The Zeiterion then stepped in and took over as producer, with the Korolenkos still organizing the festival, through 2022. 

According to the announcement, those final festivals showcased hundreds of artists, brought more than 15,000 tourists to the city and contributed $3 million to the local economy. 

The city’s tourism department did not return a request for comment Friday afternoon on the festival’s economic impact. 

Maura Kennedy, who plays with her husband Pete in the folk-rock band, The Kennedys, participated at least 20 times and expressed gratitude for all the years the Korolenkos invested in the festival. 

Aside from standard performances, the festivals featured workshops, wherein musicians who had never played together were brought together to put on a show based on a given theme. Through a workshop, The Kennedys met English band, Little Johnny England, who are still their friends today. 

“We loved that festival more than most others because of the way that Alan programmed the workshops stages … we found some musical common ground and they became lifelong friends, so that’s a big impact,” she told The Light.  

She said they had an “inkling” the festival would end, given the Korolenkos had announced retiring in 2015. 

“It sure goes out on a high point, it didn’t have the chance to diminish in its impact on not only the musicians, but the whole community of New Bedford,” Kennedy said.

The New Bedford Folk Festival’s Facebook page had this message Friday. Credit: Facebook

The news drew disappointment from the community, with several taking to the festival’s Facebook post to share their thoughts.

“Favorite festival ever. Annual attendee for years. Heartbroken for the community, artists and fans,” posted Tracie Beasley on Facebook. “Prices could easily double and attract crowds. It’s the least expensive on the East Coast. I hope it’s awakened again in the future.”

“In a time where there are so few unchoreographed performances and even fewer venues where young and old, established and up and coming musicians could meet and learn from one another, this is a devastating loss,” posted Tony Silvia on Facebook.

Others hoped someone else would pick up the reins and continue the much-loved tradition. 

One commenter said it was a bad decision, asking why the Zeiterion wouldn’t raise ticket prices or scale it down to a one-day festival in order to reduce costs, noting its cancellation would hurt the performers and vendors. 

In an interview with The Light last summer, Alan Korolenko discussed the festival’s reputation for being affordable, stating they wanted to keep the prices reasonable so that it was accessible for the community. Given the open-air nature of the festival, passersby could even enjoy the music or watch a performance without needing to buy a ticket. 


Asked if he and Helene were open to continuing the festival again at some point, he answered in the affirmative (after first checking with Helene), as long as someone else produces it and they can run it the way they always have. 

Korolenko thanked the Zeiterion for a wonderful working relationship, and emphasized how grateful he is for the success the festival had over its 25 years.

“Just now, looking at the Facebook page, the comments people are making, it really meant something to them,” he said. “When you do anything in the arts, I guess that’s what you’re looking for — that it means something for the people that are exposed to it. We’re very, very happy that we were able to do that.”

Email Anastasia E. Lennon at

Thank you to our sponsors

Founding benefactors: Joan and Irwin Jacobs fund of the Jewish Community Foundation, Mary and Jim Ottaway

Learn more about our community of individual donors

For questions about donations, contact Chrystal Walsh, director of advancement, at

For questions about sponsoring The Light, contact Peter Andrews, director of business development and community engagement, at