The recent warm sunny days in Central PA have got me thinking about a couple of things: planting the garden, and attending a few Folk festivals. My two favorites are Merlefest in NC, and Old Songs in NY, and if it were closer Lunenberg in Nova Scotia. But I came across a festival today that I’d never heard about that sounds terrific. The National Folk Festival. If you’re as clueless about it as I was, I’ve copied it below. And if you’ve been before and can provide some on the grounds details, I bet a bunch of folks would like to hear about it.
The History of The National Folk Festival.
First presented in St. Louis in 1934, the National Folk Festival is the oldest, longest-running and most diverse festival of traditional arts in the nation. Championed in its early years by Eleanor Roosevelt, it was the first event of national stature to put the arts of many nations, races and languages into the same event on an equal footing.
Some of the artists presented at the first festival are now legendary and the recordings and other documentation made possible by the National are precious. W.C. Handy’s first performance on a desegregated stage was at the 1938 National. It was the first national event to present the blues, Cajun music, a polka band, a Tex-Mex conjunto, a Sacred Harp ensemble, Peking opera - the list goes on and on.
Now entering its 72nd year, the National Folk Festival is still produced by the same organization that created it, the National Council for the Traditional Arts (NCTA). It is a traveling event produced in partnership with communities around the country, where the “National’s” three-year stay in each host city is intended to lay the groundwork for locally produced festivals and events that continue after the National moves on. To date, the National Folk Festival has been presented in 26 communities around the nation. Musicians and craftspeople from every state in the Union and most U.S. territories have participated in this “moveable feast of deeply traditional folk arts,” which is now attracting the largest audiences in its history.