Salisbury Folk Festival preparations in high gear


As the National Folk Festival draws closer to opening in Salisbury, filling the city with music and dance Sept. 7 to 9, there is a need for volunteers to help the event run smoothly, since 60,000 to 80,000 people are expected to attend.

About 800 volunteers are required and can sign up individually or with groups of friends or business associates. This week, Caroline O’Hare, local manager, said a couple hundred people have already volunteered, but more are needed.

The average length of a volunteer shift is three to four hours and volunteers may take more than one shift. When they register, they can choose what jobs they’re interested in as well as preferred time slots.  Orientation sessions will be held and, for some volunteers, there will be training.


“The festival is fast approaching and excitement is definitely building,” O’Hare said.

“My favorite part is to see the community really coming together saying, ‘How can I help? What can I do?’”

Seven stages will be Downtown and all of the entertainers will perform every day, 45 minutes to one hour apart. O’Hare said stage locations haven’t yet been finalized but the Festival will be bordered by Routes 13 and 50, Carroll Street and the Wicomico River.

There is no admission charge.

Hours will be Friday, Sept. 7, shows begin on four stages at 6 p.m. and the festival ends at 10:30 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 8, shows start at noon. The family area and stage close at 5 p.m. and shows end at 10:30 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 9. Shows start at noon and end at 6:30 p.m.

O’Hare is working with Julia Olin, Executive Director for the National Council for the Traditional Arts; Julia Glanz, City Administrator; Chad Buterbaugh, Director of Maryland Traditions; and Lora Bottinelli, Executive Director of the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art.

Also at the Festival, folklife will be celebrated with Chesapeake Traditions.

Curated by Maryland Traditions, the folklife program of the Maryland State Arts Council, and the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art at Salisbury University, Chesapeake Traditions will explore the region’s “rich material and occupational traditions, which have flourished from the maritime, marsh and agricultural communities,” according to a news release.

“Crab picking, oyster shucking and Smith Island Cake baking are just a slice of what is offered at Chesapeake foodways demonstrations. Master shipwrights and decoy carvers will showcase their woodworking talents. Learn how the relationship of land and water has been carried across generations of native people from the area’s indigenous communities. Enjoy an array of exciting performances and demonstrations by 2017-2018 Maryland Traditions Master Apprenticeship Award recipients from across the state,” the news release states.

Since it was first presented in St. Louis in 1934, the National Folk Festival has celebrated the roots, richness and variety of American culture.

Championed in its early years by Eleanor Roosevelt, it was the first event of national stature to present the arts of many nations, races, and languages and first to present musical forms including blues, Cajun music, a polka band and Tex-Mex conjunto.

The list of entertainers includes:

  • Jason Samuels Smith of New York, N.Y., tap dancing. One of the most acclaimed tap dancers of his generation, Smith is known as a dancer who upholds a great American tradition with verve and style.   
  • Michael Winograd and the Honorable Mentshn from Brooklyn, klezmer. Described as rousing, raucous and poignant, the band is fronted by one of today’s premier klezmer clarinetists.
  • Nukariik of Ottawa, Ontario, Inuit throat singing. A rarely heard tradition, Inuit throat singing blends breath and voiced sound to create playful, rhythmic melodies and imitations of sounds in nature.
  • Phil Wiggins Blues House Party from Takoma Park, Md., Piedmont blues and dance. A harmonica expert and master of dance, Wiggins leads Piedmont blues music and dance, inspired by the rural house parties of the band’s youth.
  • *Nicolae Feraru of Chicago, Romanian cimbalom. Virtuosity and musical passion have made this master of the cimbalom a revered figure in Chicago’s Eastern European communities.
  • *Rahzel of New York, N.Y., beatboxing. This one-time member of The Roots sparked a beatbox renaissance.
  • *Tremé Brass Band of New Orleans, New Orleans brass band. From the storied Tremé neighborhood, and firmly rooted in community parade traditions, one of the Crescent City’s most beloved brass bands.
  • Yves Lambert Trio of Montreal, Québec, Québécois. This trio mines the rich musical heritage of La belle province to create a one-of-a-kind musical experience.
  • The Chankas of Peru of Port Chester, N.Y., Andean scissors dance. Carrying on the legendary danza de las Tijeras, or scissors dance, an ancient, highly acrobatic indigenous ritual dance from the southern Andes of Peru.
  • Liz Carroll  of Chicago, Irish. This Chicago-born fiddler is among the most influential and celebrated in the world of traditional Irish music.
  • *Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys of Mamou, La., Cajun music. Both traditional and forward-looking, this band sets the standard for modern Cajun music, which is sophisticated and soulful.
  • West African Highlife Band of El Cerrito, Calif., highlife. Nigerian bassist Babá Ken Okulolo and his band deliver the irresistibly danceable sounds of classic highlife.
  • Clinton Fearon  of Seattle, reggae.
  • Imamyar Hasanov and  Abbos Kosimov of San Francisco and Sacramento, Calif., Azerbaijani kamancha and percussion. These are haunting melodies of the Azerbaijani spiked fiddle supported by percussion.
  • Mariachi Los Camperos of Los Angeles, mariachi with soaring vocals, a violin section and showmanship.
  • Marquise Knox of St. Louis, blues that channel old-school masters.
  • Michael Cleveland and  Flamekeeper of Charlestown, Ind., bluegrass. This band is a ten-time IBMA Fiddle Performer of the Year.
  • Orquesta SCC of the Bronx, salsa dura.
  • The Quebe Sisters of Dallas, Texas fiddling, western swing and three-part-harmony singing and fiddling.
  • Sounds of Korea of New York N.Y., Korean music and dance, with dancers in exquisite traditional attire, with powerful ritual drumming, lush music and expressive dances.

The Chesapeake Traditions stage performance program will feature:

  • Jay Armsworthy and Eastern Tradition of California, Md., performing bluegrass and harmonies from southern Maryland.
  • Hugh and Zane Campbell of Elkton, bluegrass and old-time musicians with a rich family ancestry of traditional Appalachian mountain music.
  • Singing & Praying Bands of Maryland and Delaware, presenting historic African-American traditions of religious worship.
  • The Sensational Royal Lights of Catonsville, a family gospel group founded more than six decades ago near Cambridge that continues to perform quartet-style gospel music throughout Delmarva.
  • Phil Wiggins Blues House Party of Takoma Park, fronted by an award-winning harmonica expert, with an exuberant celebration of Piedmont blues music and dance inspired by rural house parties.

The Chesapeake Traditions demonstration program will feature:

  • Rhonda Aaron of Church Creek, sharing her expertise of eel pot construction and traditional trapping techniques.
  • Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum of St. Michaels, led by shipyard manager Michael Gorman, who will construct a Smith Island-style skiff from start to finish on the festival grounds.
  • Joyce Fitchett of Crisfield, eight-time crab-picking champion at the National Hard Crab Derby in Crisfield, demonstrating occupational crab-picking practices.
  • James Lane of Crisfield, sharing knowledge of local heritage and cultural traditions.
  • Phil Langley, with Fish the Bay Charters, presenting experience as a charter fishing boat captain who is also involved in the Chesapeake’s heritage tourism industry.
  • Janice Marshall of Crisfield, who is deeply rooted in Smith Island traditions, demonstrating crab-picking practices and telling stories about the Smith Island way of life.
  • Mary Ada Marshall of Tylerton, a Smith Island tradition bearer who is known for her expertise about the process of making Smith Island cake.
  • Jay Martin of Eden, creator of Provident Organic Farms, sharing his expertise in sustainable food systems in the region.
  • Pocomoke Indian Nation of Eden, an indigenous tribal organization of the Eastern Shore, demonstrating and interpreting varied Pocomoke traditions and lifeways.
  • Newell Quinton of Mardela Springs, a scrapple maker and San Domingo community scholar, demonstrating the tradition of scrapple making and its history.
  • Kermit Travers of East New Market, a retired skipjack captain from Dorchester County, sharing knowledge of skipjacks and maritime heritage in the Chesapeake Bay.
  • Michael Whidbee of Crisfield, who will demonstrate oyster-shucking skills and techniques he has developed over a lifetime in the industry.
  • Stoney Whitelock of Deal Island, a fourth-generation skipjack captain, who will share the history of skipjacks as working vessels and their centrality to the Chesapeake Bay.
  • Anna Pasqualucci and Lisa Marie Penn of Lithicum, Md., and Glen Rock, Pa., screen painting.

On Sunday, Sept. 9, there will be performances by Maryland Traditions Apprenticeship Awards’ master-apprentice teams, which are:

  • Shodekeh and AIan Hesford of Baltimore, Tuvan throat singing.
  • Mama Linda Goss and Dr. David Fakunle of Baltimore and Laurel, African-American storytelling.
  • Andrea Hoag and Christopher Ousley of Brentwood, Swedish fiddling.
  • Mohammadreza Kazemifar and Ali Analouei of Potomac and Rockville, Persian classical singing.
  • Chum Ngek and Suteera Nagavajara of Gaithersburg and Takoma Park, homrong or Cambodian classical music.
  • Sebastian Wang and Sanghyuk Park of Kensington and Laurel, samulnori or traditional Korean percussion.

Fundraising continues

The economic impact on the area, including hotels and restaurants,is estimated to exceed $30 million for the first year alone.

The process of raising the $1.3 million needed to help fund the festival is under way. Like many projects such as this one, the improvements and improvements Downtown will remain long after the festival is over.

The city and state investment in those improvements is more than $24.8 million.This event is a true public-private partnership.

Major sponsorships are still available. While organizers have already received impressive contributions from Perdue Farms Inc., Henson Foundation, the PRMC Foundation, Eastern Shore Distributing, the Donnie Williams Foundation and Avery Hall Insurance — among others — there remains room at the top of the funding recognition chain.

As part of the NFF Legacy Society, a contribution of $1,000 will make the donor a founding member and their names will be part of the Legacy Wall at the Downtown Amphitheater.

More than 100 people have already become founding members of the NFF Legacy Society — there’s plenty of room for more.

First Shore Federal Savings Bank is the corporate sponsor for the LegacyWall.

Volunteer shifts posted

More than 800 volunteers are needed to fill a variety of positions. Volunteer shifts are now posted and open for online sign up.

Partnering with the United Way of the Lower Eastern Shore’s Get Connected Volunteer Center, the Festival has made it easy for prospective volunteers to sign up for the job they want to do and the day(s) and time(s) they want to work. In just a matter of minutes, you can select and sign up for your perfect National Folk Festival volunteer position.

Volunteers may sign up individually or with groups of friends or business associates. The average length of a volunteer shift is three to four hours; prospective volunteers may sign up for several shifts during the three-day event. From helping to keep the Festival “Green” to assisting in merchandise sales to being a part of the “Bucket Brigade,” there are dozens of opportunities for teens and adults to get involved.

With many different volunteer roles available, people may choose what jobs they’re interested in as well as their preferred time slots when registering online. All volunteers will be asked to attend an orientation session.

Depending on their role, some volunteers will also participate in training sessions.

Each volunteer will get a National Folk Festival Volunteer t-shirt, receive service hours (for students), and gain a wonderful sense of community pride.

“Volunteering is fun and provides people of all ages and backgrounds the opportunity to serve our community,” said Pam Gregory, Community Impact Director at the United Way of the Lower Eastern Shore. “The National Folk Festival is a fantastic way for us to showcase how working together can lift us all up.”

To learn about volunteer roles and to sign-up visit  or e-mail Festival Volunteer Coordinators Mark DeLancey and Kendall Krach at with any questions.

As your community newspaper, we are committed to making Salisbury a better place. You can help support our mission by making a voluntary contribution to the newspaper.
Facebook Comment