For 80 years, the National Folk Festival has provided a way for people to embrace the dazzling array of cultural traditions that define our nation. It celebrates the roots, richness and variety of American culture through music, dance, traditional craft, storytelling, food and more. To date, this free-to-the-public “moveable feast of deeply traditional folk arts” has been held in 27 communities around the country.
Now, for the first time ever, the National Folk Festival is coming to North Carolina. In a recent press conference, the National Council for the Traditional Arts (NCTA) announced the selection of Greensboro, North Carolina as Host City for the 2015–2017 National Folk Festivals. In 2015, as the festival launches its three-year stay in Greensboro, the event will celebrate its 75th anniversary.
Greensboro was chosen through a nationwide competitive process involving 32 American cities. Selected as a finalist in January, NCTA representatives visited Greensboro in mid- February to tour the city, meet with local officials and organizers, and hear from a variety of supporters. “Greensboro was quite impressive,” said NCTA Executive Director Julia Olin. “There is an amazing community spirit – the kind of energy and enthusiasm that we believe will make for a great collaboration and successful event.”
The festival, as always, will showcase the very finest traditional performers from all parts of the nation. With downtown Greensboro as the backdrop, audiences will be treated to diverse musical traditions including the blues, rockabilly, gospel, klezmer, jazz, bluegrass, cowboy, polka, tamburitza, old-time, mariachi, western swing, honky-tonk, rhythm and blues, and zydeco music as well as traditional music and dance from Cajun, Native American, Celtic, Middle Eastern, Caribbean, East Asian, Appalachian, Hispanic, African and Pacific Islander cultures. Six to seven stages ranging in size from large, open-air venues to small, intimate acoustic-style stages will offer continuous performances throughout the three-day event. There will be a pavilion where festivalgoers can dance non-stop, plus workshops, regional and ethnic foods, puppetry, parades, craft exhibits and demonstrations, a family area, and a festival marketplace.
The festival will also celebrate deep traditions for which North Carolina is famous, as well as shine a light on the living heritage of immigrant groups new to the region, with the goal of weaving a multicultural tapestry that reflects the evolving character of the City, state and nation. Greensboro’s unique history has been shaped by the pacifist traditions of its 18th-century Quaker founders, a pivotal battle of the American Revolution in 1781, the city’s emergence as the center of the textile and furniture industries, the beginnings of the Civil Rights sit-in movement in the 1960s, and the arrival of new populations from around the globe.
“On behalf of the City of Greensboro, I want to express how excited and honored we are to host the National Folk Festival,” said Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan. “Greensboro is making a name for itself hosting national events, and people recognize our city’s outstanding hospitality.”
“While the benefits of hosting the Festival are huge for the city and its citizens,” noted ArtsGreensboro President & CEO Tom Philion, “the benefits to artists and arts groups both here and across the state will be tremendous, making this a true statewide celebration with Greensboro at the center of it.”
The NCTA will partner with ArtsGreensboro in producing the festival, working in cooperation with the City of Greensboro, the Greensboro Convention & Visitors’ Bureau, Action Greensboro, DGI and other local groups. The festival dates for 2015 are yet to be announced.