Lora Bottinelli: National Folk Festival — Why we do it

As we enjoy the rewards and returns from the National Folk Festival, I want to share some reflections with the Salisbury community on why we do this work in the first place.

Lora Bottinelli.

While the images of Salisbury’s packed streets and restaurants, and news of great event income on food, beverage, and merchandise sales, are very visible and quantifiable measures of success, Salisbury will also all be experiencing other important and intentional end products of the festival weekend.

I’d like to highlight two festival outcomes in particular: community renewal and cultural communication.  

Let’s attend to community renewal first.

The National Folk Festival in its many years (we turn 80 next year!) has a long legacy of healing, transforming and bridging humanity through its work.

Attendees at the 79th National Folk Festival were part of that long lineage of festivalgoers who have opened themselves to the bigger WE of community. In a time when people are hungry for feeling they are not alone and connected to one another, and event like the National Folk Festival fills this void in many vibrant and complex ways.

That togetherness is felt and built through the direct interactions in the festival space, from audience member to artist, from volunteer to festivalgoer, from local business staff to out-of-town traveler, and from persons of all backgrounds to one another.

Let’s not miss the chance to hold up these moments and say that they are valued; as intangible as the feeling may be, it is a changing force for the good of the community. This is the spark and shared experience that leads to continued community renewal for years to come.

Next, to the cultural communication between our artists and festivalgoers.  I am as overwhelmed as you are at the rich variety of traditions that are shared at the National Folk Festival.

In its many years, this festival has upheld the promise that the United States is a nation that honors the contributions of all its people by supporting the traditional arts, artists, and the communities that sustain them.

It brings to light the power and connectivity of the creative spirit of the American people, and the value of passing these traditions from generation to generation. It showcases artistic virtuosity and cultural ambassadorship.

As a festivalgoer, you are joining audiences down through the years who have celebrated America’s ever-evolving landscape of traditional arts, culture, and heritage at the National Folk Festival.  And our artists experienced your community, its togetherness, its friendliness, and its warmth toward this important work. The connections and relationships made this weekend now reach across America.

So, in closing, it has been a privilege to share this experience with all of you.  Please tell your friends, family, and neighbors about the National Folk Festival.

We look forward to seeing you next year at the 80th National Folk Festival in Downtown Salisbury — Sept. 11-13, 2020.

Lora Bottinelli is Executive Director of the National Council for the Traditional Arts.

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