Legacy Festivals

Continuing the Legacy of the National Folk Festival

Following 12 years in Wolf Trap Farm Park in Vienna, Virginia, the National Folk Festival went back on the road in 1983, a movable cultural feast as it had been for much of its history since the inaugural National in 1934. The first stop was Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area, a National Park site outside of Cleveland, Ohio, where the festival enjoyed a successful three-year run, and left a legacy festival behind. This three-year residency became the model for subsequent National Folk Festivals in communities across the country, marking the beginning of the NCTA’s modern era.

By selecting a city to host for three years, the NCTA aims to lay the groundwork for sustainable, locally-produced legacy festivals that continue after the National moves on to its next location. Legacy festivals contribute significantly to their communities’ cultural and economic vitality, drawing crowds of 130,000-220,000 and generating $15-30 million in regional economic impact annually. They bolster awareness and pride for local histories and folkways, foster appreciation for other cultures, and strengthen community bonds by uniting residents, non-profits, businesses, and government entities in working toward  a common goal that benefits the local host community, state and region. These broad-based coalitions are the foundation of successful National Folk Festivals and legacy festivals alike, along with an intangible, but essential element—a creative community vision and collective energy that propels and sustains these endeavors.

Legacy festivals also provide the impetus for continued enhancement, re-imagining and repurposing of public spaces in host communities. The Lowell Folk Festival played a central role in the transformation of Lowell, Massachusetts, from an economically depressed former mill town into a desirable and culturally vibrant community. The American Folk Festival was the catalyst for turning Bangor, Maine’s once rubble-strewn riverfront into an activity-filled space that is now a major attraction. In Butte, Montana, the festival effort sparked the transformation of an abandoned historic mine yard into a spectacular outdoor concert venue, and has helped to build this historic city’s reputation as a heritage tourism destination. The Richmond Folk Festival fostered a new, inclusive spirit of community that annually brings Richmonders, along with many thousands of visitors, together along Richmond’s historic downtown riverfront. Explore the links below to find out more about the history and impact of each of NCTA’s legacy festivals.

Cuyahoga Valley Heritage Festival (1983-1996)
Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area, Ohio

Lowell Folk Festival (1987-) 
Lowell, Massachusetts

Flood City Music Festival (1990-)
Johnston, Pennsylvania

Cityfolk Festival (1996-2013)
Dayton, Ohio

Great Lakes Folk Festival (1999-2017)
Lansing, Michigan

American Folk Festival (2002-2019) 
Bangor, Maine

Richmond Folk Festival (2005-) 
Richmond, Virginia

Montana Folk Festival (2008-) 
Butte, Montana

North Carolina Folk Festival (2015-)
Greensboro, North Carolina

Maryland Folk Festival (2018-)
Salisbury, Maryland