WESTBROOK — Children’s musician Rick Charette has appeared on stages all across the state and country, but none can compare to performing for his hometown crowd at Westbrook Together Days, a two-day festival that took place in Riverbank Park last Friday and Saturday.
Charette grew up off Lincoln Street and went to first- through eighth-grade in the old St. Mary’s Elementary School, steps away from the Westbrook Together Days musical stage.
“That’s that makes this so special, coming from Westbrook and being able to play music in the area where I played as a kid,” Charette said.
Playing at the festival is the perfect venue for Charette, who with his various band, has been playing for children and their families for more than 30 years, over which time he has released 12 albums featuring more than 100 songs, several of which were written in collaboration with area youth.
“One of the things that is dear to my heart is this is such a family event,” Charette said after playing his 90-minute set Saturday, June 2. “With Westbrook Together Days, there are people of all ages who come out with the families.”
Charette was one of the nine musical acts that performed at this year’s festival. Also on stage were The Delta Knights, The Waiters and the Time Pilots on Friday and American Ride, Westbrook City Band, Fighting Fiction, Girls Just Want to Have Fun and Tickle on Saturday. Elite All-Stars of Maine, Drouin Dance and dancers from Brio Dance Studio also performed.
The Westbrook Together Days appearance for Charette was notable for another reason. Last September, he had a bad bicycle accident, which left him with a broken collarbone and four fractured ribs. The Westbrook concert was only his second of 2018.
“It is a matter of what I can still do and what I can’t do. Today was a test for me. I haven’t played with the band since January,” he said. “I kind of felt like I got my life back today.”
Although Charette said he is still working on getting his guitar playing up to his satisfaction following his injuries, the Westbrook Together Days concert gave him new life. He is not sure how long he will continue performing, but his goal today is the same he had when he was first starting out: to use music as a way to educate and entertain children.
“I was thinking during the parade, is this still relevant as I get older and the kids get younger? Musically and visually, it is worth it,” Charette said. “One of the things that keeps me doing this is creating music for children and their parents as well.”
When he was just starting out as a musician, Charette dabbled in other musical genres before eventually “falling into” children’s music. He found success with the 1983 recording of “Bubble Gum,” a song he wrote while he was a student teacher.
“What gives me satisfaction is the number of parents who are coming now with the children, who listened to me when they were young,” Charette said. “I am always amazed after all these years, I still get big crowds.”
While Charette, and the other musical acts, generated a large crowd near the musical tent, many other festival-goers were on the other side of the park checking out the fair food, carnival rides and games, and silent and live auctions.
In fact, it was the rides and fair food that brought Armen and Eva Turcotte into the park after they participated in the parade Saturday morning – Armen with the middle school band and Eva with the City Council, of which her mother Anna is a member.
“They have already been on the Cobra. This is just a refreshment break and then it is back to it,”said John Turcotte, their father, as they found a shady spot to sample some of the fair food.
It was the food and entertainment that brought Jessica Riggs, her daughter Juliana Fournier, 7, and niece, Kaydince Becker, 12, to the park.
“I grew up in Westbrook and I try to come every year,” Riggs said.
Riggs said the annual event is a great way for the community to come together.
“You can meet a lot of new friends and get to know the people in your town,” Juliana said.
Paul and Pauline Concannon, who live in the Deerhill area of the city, have been long-time supporters of the Westbrook Together Days effort and attended the festivities Saturday. Paul Concannon, who has been volunteering with the Knights of Columbus since the Westbrook Women’s Club put on the first festival 39 years ago, said although the festival has changed over the years, its mission to bring the community together is still intact.
Michael Kelley can be reached at 781-3661 x 125 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @mkelleynews
Children’s artist and Westbrook native Rick Charette (left) and longtime friend and bandmate John Stuart perform “I Love Mud” during a set during Westbrook Together Days Saturday, June 2. (Staf photo by Michael Kelley)
The Kora Shriners make their way up, and down, and all around Main Street during the Westbrook Together Days parade, which featured dozens of groups from the city and the area.
Festival-goers got a rush of adrenaline with many of the carnival rides offered at Westbrook Together Days.
Andrea Parker Michaud, lead singer of Girls Just Want to Have Fun, tosses candy and other goodies into the crowd before she and her band play a cover of “I Want Candy” at Westbrook Together Days Saturday.
Cheerleaders from Elite All-Stars of Maine showcase their skills Saturday at Westbrook Together Days.