Folk Festival plans virtual celebration Sept. 12-13

Hot Club of Cowtown of Austin, Texas, which performs Western swing and hot jazz, will be one of the virtual performers in next month’s National Folk Festival.

The National Folk Festival is planning a virtual celebration on the weekend of Sept. 12-13. The longest-running multicultural celebration of the finest folk and traditional artists in the United States, each year the National features over 350 artists — musicians, dancers, storytellers, and craftspeople — with more than 35 different groups performing on the festival’s seven outdoor stages.

Last year, the 79th National Folk Festival, the second of the three festivals planned for downtown Salisbury, brought together over 150,000 people. Earlier this year, festival organizers decided to reschedule the 80th National Folk Festival for Sept. 10-12, out of concern for public safety due to the global Covid-19 health crisis.

To continue the mission and spirit of this exuberant event, the National Folk Festival will instead present a multi-day virtual celebration on the previously announced festival weekend. 

“With the postponement of the 80th National Folk Festival until next year, we were determined to deliver something joyful to Salisbury for the festival weekend in September 2020,” said Lora Bottinelli, Executive Director of the National Council for the Traditional Arts.

“Traditional arts have proven to be a force for cultural cohesion and social understanding in the complex, culturally diverse communities of our nation. The National Folk Festival celebrates what we have in common, not what separates us. It builds trust and understanding while connecting us to the past as well as our future together. We invite you to experience this virtually with us, until we can gather safely together in-person again.” 

Throughout the festival weekend, a combination of highlights from previous National Folk Festivals in Salisbury and new performances recorded exclusively for this year’s virtual celebration will be aired on the festival’s website and social media platforms as well as Delmarva Public Media (WSCL 89.5, WDSL 90.7, WESM 91.3). The celebration will kick off on Saturday, Sept. 12, from noon to 3 p.m. on Delmarva Public Media.

DPM will air performances from the 78th and 79th National Folk Festivals in Salisbury alongside interviews with these performers that were produced by American Routes, an award-winning, New Orleans-based public radio program. Starting at 3 p.m., the festivities will shift to the National’s website and social media platforms for a program that includes newly recorded performances from nationally recognized traditional artists; features from the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art, Salisbury University on the traditional culture of the Chesapeake; special family activities; a short preview of an upcoming documentary about the 80-year history of the National; and much more. The virtual broadcast will end at approximately 7 p.m. 

The celebration will return Sunday, Sept. 13, beginning again from noon to 3 p.m. on DPM and then continuing from 3 p.m. until approximately 7 p.m. on the National’s website and social media platforms.

In addition to more specially recorded performances and family activities, Sunday’s program will include a look at this year’s Maryland Traditions Folklife Apprenticeship teams. Maryland Traditions is the folklife program of the Maryland State Arts Council. 

Original performances recorded specifically for the virtual celebration will be provided by the following artists, some of whom are familiar to Salisbury audiences from the past two festivals: 

  • Alex Meixner (Palm City, Fla.) — polka. 
  • Dale Ann Bradley (Middlesboro, Ky.) — bluegrass. 
  • Don Vappie Trio (New Orleans) — New Orleans Creole jazz. 
  • Dovie Thomason (Harrisburg, Pa.) — Lakota storytelling. 
  • Feedel Band (Addis Ababa via Washington, D.C.) — Ethiojazz. 
  • Hot Club of Cowtown (Austin, Texas) — western swing and hot jazz. 
  • Jerry Douglas (Nashville) — Dobro master. 
  • Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne (Vancouver) — blues and boogie-woogie piano. 
  • Los Pleneros de la 21 (East Harlem, N.Y.) — bomba y plena. 
  • Phil Wiggins (Takoma Park, Md.) — Piedmont blues harmonica. 
  • Rajna Swaminathan & Ganavya Doraiswamy (Cambridge, Mass.) —Carnatic and Varakari devotional music. 
  • The Red Trouser Show (Wilton, N.H.) —circus arts. 
  • Riley Baugus (Walkertown, N.C.) —Appalachian songs and ballads. 
  • Wendy MacIsaac, Màiri Rankin, & Mac Morin (Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia) — Cape Breton music and dance.

“As heartbreaking as it is to know that we can’t celebrate the National in Downtown Salisbury this year, we’re truly getting the next best experience thanks to Caroline O’Hare and the whole team at the National Folk Festival,” said City Administrator Julia Glanz.

“They have been putting in a tremendous amount of time and effort to bring us a virtual event that is sure to lift your spirits and have you looking forward to 2021,” she said. 

The virtual celebration on Sept. 12 and 13 will be free to watch and will stream on the National Folk Festival’s website, as well as the festival’s Facebook page and YouTube channel (schedule TBA).  

More information, including the full schedule of performances and other activities, will be announced as it becomes available. 

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