“I believe it started out with, ‘I’ve got a crazy idea,'” recalled Roots and Tendrils owner Meg Fournier of a conversation she and her husband, Bub, had with Colonial Theatre owner Mike Hurley in January.

Hurley’s idea was to organize a music event that would take place at multiple venues throughout downtown Belfast — something along the lines of the annual New Year’s by the Bay celebration. Three months later, the Belfast Free Range Music Festival is days away from hatching, or flying the coop, or traversing the road, and barring a volcanic eruption in Aroostook County, the event figures to exceed the organizers’ wildest expectations.

“Usually you’re just dying to get out of your house this time of year,” Fournier said.

The original plan was modest. After some preliminary discussions, it was decided that it should not take place too close to either New Year’s Eve or the summer festivals. Armed with what she termed an “extreme shoestring budget,” Fournier began contacting bands that had played at Roots & Tendrils. She also contacted friends of bands that had played at Roots and Tendrils and friends of those friends.

Some of the acts that ended up on the bill had either toured together or shared musicians at various times. South China, a husband and wife duo from Portland, named after a Kennebec County village, have been members, at various times, of at least two other bands taking part in the Free Range Festival — Brown Bird and Tiger Saw.

Tiger Saw was scheduled to be on tour in New York and Southern New England with two West Coast bands, Unbunny and Lazarus, from Seattle and San Francisco respectively. Both were added to the Free Range bill, agreeing to come to Belfast for a modest travel stipend. Fournier said local bands she approached to play at the festival also generally agreed to play for a reduced fee.

Several, including Dan Beckman of Uke of Spaces Corners, Kristen Burkholder of Luna Madidus and Nathan Raleigh of Class Machine, became involved with the festival as organizers. When it came to booking acts for the six venues, they reached out to bands from the genres with which they were best acquainted, looking to see, as Burkholder recalled, “who we could get for what we could offer.”

For her part, Burkholder wanted to see jazz represented at the festival, beyond the band Luna Madidus, with which she performs.

Singer and pianist Mary Anne Driscoll was interested but required a decent piano. The request was granted, thanks to the administration of the Belfast Free Library, which offered use of the Gammons Reading Room and the accompanying Steinway grand piano and agreed to keep the building open later than usual.

Aarhus Gallery also signed on as a venue, providing space for a triple bill of afternoon shows.

“As word started to get out about the festival, we had a huge influx of bands who wanted to play. We thought we were going to be digging for bands to fill the venues,” Fournier said.

Then as though recalling a bizarre dream, she added, “Jazz Mandolin Project came out of nowhere.”

JMP, as the genre-bending instrumental act is often referred to, has a national following, bolstered by the fact that the group’s rotating cast of drummers includes Jonathan Fishman of the wildly popular band Phish. Fishman, who lives in Lincolnville, caught wind of the Free Range Music Festival after a conversation between his wife and Fournier.

“We found out that it was happening,” Fishman said, “that somebody was actually putting on a music festival in Belfast, and my wife said, ‘Hey, get JMP to play.'”

Fishman contacted bandleader Jaime Masefield, who agreed to the gig. He also tapped longtime friend Colonel Bruce Hampton who, along with his band The Aquarium Rescue Unit, toured with Phish in the 1990s when the latter was comparatively unknown. Hampton agreed to fly up from Florida with guitarist Grant Green Jr. to play at the Belfast festival. For purposes of Saturday’s show, Hampton’s ensemble, The Quark Alliance, is expected to include Fishman on drums.

“We’re just really excited that someone has taken the initiative to put on a music festival in Belfast,” Fishman said. “We’re just excited to be part of it, and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Fournier said she was proud of the range of genres represented on the festival schedule, and surprised at how much interest the festival had attracted in its first year.

The festival’s Facebook page, which organizers credit with generating extra buzz about the event, has attracted 500 fans. And early reports suggest that advance ticket sales for the Free Range Music Festival have outpaced those at similar festivals.

“This is a position we didn’t expect to be in, where at a certain point we’d have to start saying, ‘no,’ to people,” Fournier said.

And she has. Fournier didn’t want to publicize the names of bands that were turned away, but told of one that, several years ago, rode a groundswell of word-of-mouth popularity to sell out three shows at Madison Square Garden.

“If you’d told me in January when we first started this that we’d have this kind of lineup, I would have laughed,” she said.

All access passes for the Belfast Free Range Music Festival are $20. These passes, of which Fournier said there are a limited number, include entry to Jazz Mandolin Project. General admission passes that allow entry to all shows except Jazz Mandolin Project are $12 in advance, $15 on the day of the festival. Passes can be purchased in advance at Roots & Tendrils, The Green Store, Wild Rufus and the Colonial Theatre, or online at: freerangemusicfestival.com.