Hosting the National Folk Festival

Become the host city for the 82nd, 83rd, and 84th National Folk Festivals! The NCTA is currently conducting a nationally competitive search for the next National Folk Festival host city. For more information on the application process, click here.

What the National Folk Festival brings to communities

Some of the festival’s potential benefits to a host city are obvious: regional and national media exposure; thousands of out-of-town visitors who spend their money at local businesses during this free event; an opportunity to showcase the area’s best traditional artists in a national context in the heart of the community. Less obvious, but equally important, is the role the festival can play in uniting diverse elements of the community to work towards a common goal—the establishment of a high-quality traditional arts festival that will continue to thrive after the National Folk Festival moves on.

Building a successful partnership

Although the exact division of responsibilities between the NCTA and the local sponsors varies somewhat from site to site, there are some basic components that are essential to a successful partnership.

The local partnering organizations involved may also vary, but must include the government of the city represented by its chief administrator (mayor or city manager). This is necessary in order to have the full use of downtown or other critical sites and good cooperation from police, fire departments, public works, and sanitation personnel.

A second critical local organization is a 501(c)(3) with a good reputation to ensure fundraising success (cash budgets have recently been in the $1.5 million per year range), strong promotional capabilities, and sufficient staff to organize substantial components of the event, and to take charge when the National leaves in three years.

A National Folk Festival site must be capable of accommodating four to seven stages, a crafts area, regional/ethnic food sales, with parking and space for 50-75,000 people per day. Along with this goes the means to secure electrical service, tents, booths, sanitary facilities, trash removal, and other physical needs for a large outdoor event.

The NCTA is the organizing partner that coordinates programming and most aspects of production, but it holds programming meetings in the site city. The other organizing partners and community group representatives are urged to participate, to hear recordings and see videos of potential performers, and to argue for favorites. With good leadership the group invariably makes excellent aesthetic recommendations that contribute valuable community perspectives and insights to the programming process.

The NCTA brings to the coalition 80 years of experience in producing successful festivals within diverse communities. Although our primary expertise is in program content and curation, site planning, and production, we work closely with the local sponsor on all aspects of the festival, including fundraising, publicity, and promotion.

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