The National Folk Festival is returning to Greensboro in less than a month; Sept. 8-10, to be exact. Make sure to mark your calendars or add those dates to the digital one on your phone, because this is the final time the National Folk Festival will be held in Greensboro after a three-year run. The National Folk Festival is a multi-cultural showcase of many different types of art forms, from music to parades. The festival takes place over three days and includes a wealth of talented artists from all over the world. Thousands of people are in attendance, with the numbers growing each year. This festival is the longest-running traditional arts event in the nation, clocking in at the ripe age of 77, making it old enough to be my grandfather.
Something that old does not come without a little history. When the festival was first held in St. Louis back in 1934, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was a huge fan. It was the first of its kind. Giving different cultures an equal representation on the same stage was unique for the time. It is also the first forum in which blues, Cajun music and the polka band were introduced to the public.
The festival is going to begin at the Wrangler Stage in downtown Greensboro at approximately 6:00 p.m. with the Treme brass band, a well-known brass band that comes from New Orleans. They were disbanded after hurricane Katrina struck, but reunited after fans raised money to bring them back together and have been together since. Around 6:30 p.m., there will be a parade to City Stage where the opening remarks to the festival will be made. A performance by the Bruce Daigrepont Cajun Band will be held on City Stage and International Bluegrass Music Association award winning artist, Dale Ann Bradley, will be on the Lawn Stage at 7:15 p.m. Following that, there will be performances at several stages around the festival. The Marshall Ford Swing Band will be playing at the Wrangler Stage at 7:30 p.m., an African gospel acapella group called The Fairfield Four will be playing at 8:30 p.m. at the Lawn Stage, and the Latin dance music ensemble Orquesta SCC will close out the night at 9:15 p.m. on City Stage. That is just to name a few of the performances; there are 10 performances scheduled for the first night.
The second day of the festival is to begin at noon, with performances happening at the same time on every stage, so you will have to plan ahead and decide which one to see. There will be Egyptian dance and music on the McDonald’s Family Stage. Matthew & John Tooni, two brothers from the Eastern Band of Cherokee who tell traditional stories through song and dance, will perform on the Hear My Words Stage. The NC Folklife Arts and Crafts Gallery also opens up at 12:00 p.m. and stays open untill 6 p.m. At 2 p.m. on City Stage, the Grammy-award-winning group, Alash, performs a vocal tradition from their home of the Republic of Tuva in Central Asia. It is called throat singing, and it sounds like it should be on the soundtrack to “Game of Thrones.” At 5:30 p.m., Dakota Brown will be in the Arts and Crafts gallery showcasing her authentic Cherokee bead and feather work. The night ends with Lurrie Bell’s Chicago Blues Band at the Wrangler Stage, starting at 9:15 p.m.
Sunday, the last day of the festival, starts at noon once again. At 12:15 p.m., Rahzel, Nicole Paris and Ed Cage perform beatboxing on the McDonald’s Family Stage. After their performance, Brice & Grace Chapman take the same stage. Brice Chapman is a renowned rope performer, making complicated lasso tricks look easy. The festival comes to its end at 5:45 p.m. with a performance by the Bruce Daigrepont Cajun Band at the Dance Pavilion.
All these performers, and others that I was not able to mention, will perform multiple times throughout the festival, so there will be time to catch them all. Next year, also in September, taking the National Folk Festival’s place will be the North Carolina Folk Festival, a new tradition for Carolinians to embrace.