Not the same ole song and dance: Folkmoot finds success in year-round programming, preserving legacy
In its 36th year of cultural exchange through song and dance, Folkmoot remains a moving target, one that constantly evolves in its programming, but never once forgetting its core values.
“Everything has to grow and change to be relevant. And we’re not forgetting the legacy at all,” said Folkmoot Executive Director Angie Schwab. “In fact, we’re embracing the legacy and making it more precious as we go along. Each year, we learn more about ourselves and what we need to improve, and we make those adjustments.”
Aside for the usual showcase of dozens of events featuring international performers, this year will also include two new components — Mootenanny and Folkmalt. With performances throughout Western North Carolina, the festival will run from July 18-28.
“We’ve talked to a lot of people, and we’re presenting programming that people have requested,” Schwab said. “As we expand from a singular folk festival to a year-round cultural organization, and we build the festival out to include other forms of cultural engagement, Mootananny and Folkmalt have been well-thought out.”
Taking place from 2 to 9 p.m. Saturday, July 21, at the Folkmoot Friendship Center Greenspace in Waynesville, Mootenanny will include performances by acclaimed Americana/indie act Amanda Anne Platt & The Honeycutters, legendary Appalachian singer-songwriter Jim Avett, Jackson County newgrass ensemble Ol’ Dirty Bathtub and Haywood County’s own Americana/folk act Joey Fortner & The Universal Sound. There will also be demonstrations by Mountain Folkways (blacksmiths, heirloom seeds, traditional medicines, bear dogs, and more).
“Our audience wanted us to celebrate more of our Appalachian culture,” Schwab said. “We have a such a beautiful and unique culture here in these mountains, and we want to complement the visiting groups with our own traditions and artistic talents.”
A craft beer festival held in downtown Canton, Folkmalt will be held from 3 to 9 p.m. Friday, July 26, at Sorrells Park. With 16 local and regional breweries (and several food trucks) in attendance pouring fine artisans ales, live music will also be provided by The Get Right Band (rock/soul) and Woody Pines (folk/blues).
“We’ve wanted a signature event in Canton for five years. It’s been considered from every angle, and we felt we needed to look into beer culture,” Schwab said. “With all the local and regional breweries here, the beer itself is influenced by international culture. It seemed like a natural fit for us, and it will also help us sell tickets, expand our identity, and now have something in Canton, which is important to us.”
A big push for these new additions to Folkmoot came from a need to attract a younger audience within the 25- to 45-year-old age bracket, where a more contemporary touch will only complement the decades of arts and culture already provided by the festival.
Amanda Anne Platt & The Honeycutters.
“Folkmoot has been 36 years in the making and little by little we’ve made a change for the last five years — we’re going to build on all of these things moving forward,” Schwab said.
And when the festival is over, Folkmoot itself continues with year-round programming: from international dinners and cultural presentations to regular live music and its popular “Southern Storytellers” series.
“Our year-round tickets sales are going to exceed our festival ticket sales. We’re selling out our musical events. We’re intending to be the premier music room for Haywood County and have music all of the time,” Schwab noted. “We have chefs work out of our kitchen and do a level of food culture that reflects our broader identity as a cultural organization. We’ve spent years developing the programming we have, and we’re expanding the festival in a way that reflects what we’ve learned in the year-round programming.”
Now just a couple days away from its official kickoff for 2019, Folkmoot continues to be a beacon of harmonious light for cultures of the world, all brought together within these small mountain communities in our backyard.
“We’re keenly aware of who we are and what we do, and what we need to do as we grow and expand more into the region,” Schwab said. “Folkmoot has always been about working together and making life better for one another.”
Want to go?
The 36th annual Folkmoot International Dance & Music Festival will take place July 18-28 around venues and stages in Western North Carolina. For a full schedule of events and ticket information, click on www.folkmoot.org.
For more information of the inaugural Mootenanny and Folkmalt, go to www.folkmoot.org/mootenanny and www.folkmoot.org/folkmalt.
Folkmoot After Dark will take place at 10 p.m. Thursday, July 25, at the Folkmoot Friendship Center in Waynesville. The variety show will be hosted by Asheville legend/drag persona Celeste Starr and Sylva performance celebrity Heather Hyatt. Performers include Ol’ Dirty Bathtub, members of the Southern Appalachian Arts Repertory Theater, international group members and more.