Folk Festival preparations hit high gear

by Kevin Adler

Organizers of the 33rd annual Takoma Park Folk Festival are finalizing performer and crafter selections, and they say that this year’s event will present one of the most diverse and exciting lineups ever. The festival will be held on Sunday, September 12, at Takoma Park Middle School on Piney Branch Road.
As always, it’s free and family-friendly.

Out of courtesy to the performers, the Folk Festival does not release the program until all invitations have been accepted, and that had not been accomplished by the time the Takoma Voice went to print. But festival Program Chair Catherine Chapman said that the festival will again celebrate folk music and dance from around the world. “For example, we expect to have a number of African-influenced bands this year, from traditional drummers to very contemporary African music and Afropop,” she said. “But then we’ll also go in entirely different directions, such as sea chanties and old-time American music from the Civil War and Appalachia.”

Chapman added that the festival is hoping to encourage more onsite
jamming from musicians who visit the event. “People come to folk
festivals to make music as well as to hear music,” she said. “We’re
trying to nail down a location that’s comfortable and convenient for
jammers, but is separate from our performance spaces.”

The festival’s Seventh Heaven Stage will include two tribute sessions
this year, according to Mary Sylvester and Scott Holland, who are the
coordinators of that stage. A Lucinda Williams tribute will be held at
2-3 p.m., and the stage will wrap up with a Bob Marley tribute from 5-6

Experimentation continues at the very popular Grassy Nook children’s
stage, which is programmed by Marika Partridge and her daughter
Xorissa. rgb4886fingerpiano.jpgThis year, the target audience of the Grassy Nook’s performers
will gradually increase as the day continues. What this means is that
performances from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. will be aimed at young kids, and
performances from 1-3 p.m. will appeal most strongly to
elementary-schoolers, and then teens will see some of their favorite
local bands from 3-6 p.m.

Many visitors to the Grassy Nook will likely want to stay there all
day, said Marika Partridge. “We think everyone will enjoy the
variety–so don’t think that one part won’t be appropriate for you or
your child,” she said. “But, at the same time, we wanted to give some
focus to segments during the afternoon.”

Fundraiser and Pre-Festival events coming soon

While the program is being finalized, festival organizers are wrestling
with a problem that is affecting many local arts organizations:
funding. The festival has reduced expenses where possible, but there’s
not a lot of fat in the budget. “We’re pretty lean already–neither the
performers nor the organizers are paid,” said Kevin Adler, treasurer.
“We’re spending on renting the school, renting equipment, tents and
shuttle buses, buying insurance, and doing publicity.”

With expenses relatively fixed and sponsorships and grants harder than
ever to obtain, the festival has declined from financial stability two
years ago to a deficit in 2009 and a projected larger deficit this
year. “This year, we’re really counting on the visitors on Festival Day
to make donations that will help us stay out of a hole that could
affect our long-term viability,” said Adler.

To defray some costs, the festival is holding a fundraiser at Mark’s
Kitchen on August 17. Meals purchased at Mark’s from noon until closing
on that day will generate a donation to the festival. “Mark’s has been
a huge supporter of ours for a long time, and we’re hopeful that Folk
Festival Night at Mark’s will bring a big crowd,” Adler said.

The festival also is in discussions with two local venues about
offering free concerts in August that will feature singer-songwriters
who will be at the 2010 festival. “The mini-concerts demonstrate the
caliber of performance at the festival, as well as just being a good
time,” said Adler.

A complete festival program soon will be online at The
festival can accept online donations through PayPal on its website.

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