Music festival | Roots of fest in flood anniversary, folk event | News

Although the event now known as the AmeriServ Flood City Music Festival has evolved throughout the years, the spirit of the annual summer party – with its diverse music and sense of celebration – still has ties to its earliest days.

In 1989, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 1889 Johnstown Flood, the Johnstown Area Heritage Association and other local organizations held a street fair in the city’s Cambria City neighborhood. Thousands gathered to enjoy ethnic music, art and food against the backdrop of the community’s historic architecture.

Following that success, Johnstown welcomed the National Folk Festival in 1990-92, which brought renowned Americana musical performers to the city.

“That really set the template for today’s programming,” said Richard Burkert, JAHA’s president and CEO.

The first official AmeriServ Johnstown FolkFest was held in 1994 and quickly became a Labor Day weekend tradition.

The festival was again rebranded in 2009 as the AmeriServ Flood City Music Festival in order to reflect the event’s new emphasis on attracting national talent. In the ensuing years, some of the nation’s most celebrated festival music acts performed in town, including Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Gregg Allman, Grace Potter, G. Love and Special Sauce, Leftover Salmon, Robert Randolph and The Family Band, Dr. John and the Lower 911, Del McCoury Band, Los Lobos, and The Derek Trucks Band.

“They brought kind of major name recognition,” Burkert said.

The festival also played an important role in the creation of Peoples Natural Gas Park, located near the confluence of the city’s rivers.

Organizers wanted to move the festival away from Cambria City to a venue where they could better control the environment in terms of security and layout of the grounds, Burkert said. So, in…

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