All eyes on Downtown as Folk Festival kickoff arrives

Mayor Jake Day called last September’s event “transformative” for Salisbury. “A community that thinks it deserve less is not going to try for more. Our community proved to the world we can do more so let’s keep meeting that new bar. We have to raise the bar and meet it.”

Salisbury is getting ready for the second year as host city to the National Folk Festival, and city officials have high hopes it will exceed last year in terms of attendance and economic impact.

The festival opens at 6 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 6, and runs through Sunday, Sept. 9.

All eyes are on the weather, however, as Hurricane Dorian makes its way up the East Coast, possibly making for some rainfall on the kickoff night Friday.

Last year’s festival drew 63,000 people over three days, in spite of rainy weather most of the weekend, and this year it could reach as high as 120,000, said Mayor Jake Day.

“Obviously, I’m excited,” he said. “This is a great opportunity for our community.”

A study of last year’s event by the Business, Economic and Community Outreach Network at Salisbury University showed it had a $20 million economic impact, but that it could have been as high as $45 million with a larger crowd and better weather.

Day said his greatest fear last year was logistics, but National Folk Festival organizers said the city handled everything expertly. This year, he said it will run even more smoothly.

Here’s what you need to know in the days before and during the festival:

Downtown streets will be closed

Streets in the Downtown area will be closed to traffic starting this week in the area bound by Route 50, Route 13, Carroll Street and Mill Street. All streets will reopen by 1 a.m. Monday, Sept. 9, unless otherwise noted.

Streets closing in the days leading up to the festival are:

  • North Division Street between Route 50 and Main Street is scheduled to close Tuesday at 6 a.m. and reopen by noon on Tuesday.
  • West Market Street between Camden Street and Circle Avenue will close Wednesday at 6 a.m.
  • East Main Street between North Division and just before Baptist Street will close Thursday at 6 a.m.

Streets closing at 6 a.m. on Friday, the first day of the festival are:

  • South Division Street between Main and Carroll streets.
  • Camden Street.
  • Circle Avenue.
  • Mill Street between Route 50 and Carroll Street.
  • West Main Street between North Division Street and Small Street near the marina.
  • Church Street between Mill and North Division streets.

 Festival Hours

The festival opens on Friday at 6 p.m. and closes at 10:30 p.m. Hours on Saturday are noon to 10:30 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6:30 p.m.

Food vendors and the Festival Marketplace will open at 5 p.m. on Friday, and at 11 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.


Admission is free, but festival-goers are asked to make donations. A group of volunteers known as the bucket brigade will be circulating asking for support. The suggested donation is $10 per person per day.

Free parking and shuttles

Getting to the festival is easy. Free parking is available in the lots opposite the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center, with shuttles running every 10 minutes to the festival drop-off spot at Church and Mill streets.

The shuttle will operate Friday between 5 and 11:30 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Several city parking lots are available Downtown and will be free of charge over the weekend:

  • Lot 35, Fitzwater and West Main streets.
  • Lot 7, Lemmon Hill Lane.
  • Lot 13, West Chestnut Street.
  • Lot 9, Church Street.
  • Lot 10, East Church Street and Poplar Hill Avenue.
  • Lot 5, East Main Street.
  • Downtown Parking Garage, East Market Street.

There will not be onsite transportation available between the various stages.   

Pets and other prohibited items

Pets, with the exception of service animals, are not permitted at the festival.

Other prohibited items are:

  • Coolers or large backpacks.
  • Alcohol.
  • Bottles and other glass containers.
  • Contraband such as drugs and weapons.
  • Laser pointers.
  • Flying objects such as drones, kites, Frisbees, footballs.


Twenty-six food vendors will be located throughout the festival area, offering everything from crab cakes, jerk chicken, soba noodles, barbecue and mac and cheese to fruit smoothies, ice cream and kettle corn.

Additionally, beer from Eastern Shore Distributing and wine vendors will be on site.

Festival-goers also can choose between 17 restaurants, bars and coffee shops in the area, including Acorn Market, the Brick Room, Cake Art, Mad Hatter Café, Market Street Inn, Maya Bella’s Pizza, Mojo’s, Olde Towne Deli, Roadie Joe’s, SBY Coffee, Sushi de Kanpai and the Ugly Pie that are located within the festival grounds.


The Folk Festival will take place rain or shine. The long-range forecast for the weekend calls for mostly clear skies, with a chance of showers on Friday and Saturday. Temperatures will be in the upper 70s and low 80s.

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