Greensboro’s North Carolina Folk Festival features the usual festival fare — food, music, art and crafts — but with a twist.
This festival focuses on keeping alive traditions with local, national and worldwide roots. “We celebrate the transmission of traditions from one generation to the next,” said Amy Grossmann, president and CEO of the nonprofit festival.
“We showcase regional North Carolina talent, but we also have a global flare,” she said. “We highlight performers with different global roots and traditions.”
Artists may be from North Carolina, other parts of the U.S. or the world and carry on performance traditions from their home communities or countries of origin.
“The festival is a real celebration of people carrying cultural knowledge forward through performances and crafts they learned from their families and communities,” Grossmann said. “That is really the heart and soul of what we do.”
Four stages of diverse music
After a successful pivot to a virtual event in 2020, the festival returns to downtown Greensboro Sept. 10-12 with an exciting lineup of performers including:
- Molly Tuttle who Grossmann described as “an up-and-coming, incredible bluegrass and Americana performer”
- Jazz trombonist Wycliffe Gordon who she called “a legend in the jazz world”
- Caique Vidal & Batuque/Oxente, African-Brazilian drummers
- The Mari Black Trio, Scottish performers from Boston, Mass.
- Shamarr Allen & The Underdawgs, a New Orleans funk and hip hop group
- Conjunto Guantánamo, Cuban performers from New York City. “They’re another great example of folks who are U.S. citizens but are carrying on performance traditions from their country of origin,” Grossmann said.
The public can keep up with what’s on tap at the event by signing up for the festival’s newsletter.
A hunger to convene
“The pandemic has left us with a hunger to convene safely to enjoy great music and feel safe and be part of a cultural celebration again. That’s what we have to offer in Greensboro,” Grossmann said.
“We are not ticketed; there are no gates or fences around our festival,” she added. “People can safely spread out, enjoy music, go to different stages and just have a really great time.”
Festival organizers are encouraging attendees to social distance and wear masks in places where others might convene. “We are really hoping people can stay distanced and enjoy the music and enjoy a great day,” Grossman said.
The NC Folklife Demonstration area showcasing makers from North Carolina will be taking a break this year because of coronavirus concerns and will return next year, she said.
Spinoff of national event
The festival is a spinoff of the National Folk Festival, one of the country’s earliest multicultural celebrations. First produced in St. Louis in 1934, the festival used to travel to various cities.
During the 1980s, the National Council for the Traditional Arts, organizer of the festival, decided to award it to one city for a three-year residency. “The goal was to plant a seed for that community to carry on a legacy event after 'national’ moved to another community starting the residency all over again,” Grossman said.
Greensboro hosted the festival from 2015 to 2017. “When that residency ended, ‘national’ moved on, and we carried on with a legacy event we re-named the North Carolina Folk Festival,” she added.
Grossman is proud of the fact that admission to the Greensboro festival is free. “We are 100 percent committed to keeping this festival free making sure that attendance is not limited by a person’s ability to enter the site,” she said.