Folkmoot returns: After a year off, a revamped festival
Folkmoot USA will return with its annual festival for summer 2021.
Due to both the local and international impacts of the Coronavirus Pandemic, the festival was canceled in 2020. During the tumultuous year, Folkmoot also saw a change in leadership. Angie Schwab left the position of executive director she had held since 2015, and the folkmoot board hired Glenn Fields for the job.
Folkmoot will look different this year than in years past, though some of the most popular events will remain. The festival will run four days, July 22-25.
“The theme of the festival this year, since we can’t fly anybody in from around the world, will be focused on American cultural diversity in music and dance,” said Fields. “It’s all the different cultures that make up the melting pot that is America and the immigrant cultures that have come to this country to make it what it is.”
Opening night, Thursday, July 22, will take place at the Folkmoot Friendship Center in Waynesville. The festival will begin with food and drinks in the cafeteria, with musical entertainment provided by Los Texmaniacs, a conjunto band from San Antonio, Texas. Then, from 7 to 9 p.m. in the auditorium, guests will get a sneak peak of some of the groups performing throughout the weekend. The night will end with a performance by The Revelers, of whom Executive Director Glenn Fields is a member. The Revelers specialize in Cajun and Zydeco, which is Gulf Coast French music from Louisiana.
On Friday night there will be a performance at the Nanci Weldon Open Air Gym at Lake Junaluska. This is intended to be kid friendly, as families can see the show from the green space surrounding the gym. Families are invited to set up blankets or chairs in the lawn where kids can play. It will be free for children 12 and under to attend. There will also be food trucks on site. The event will run from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Saturday will see the return of International Festival Day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Main Street in Waynesville. Both Haywood Community College and John C. Campbell Folk School will be at the festival doing demonstrations of different arts and crafts they teach. There will be three stages on which different dance and musical groups will be performing throughout the day.
“A big part of this year’s events, we’re trying to involve the Cherokee, the Eastern Band, so we’re hoping to have a bunch of woodcarvers out there and folks doing different things,” said Fields.
From 4:30 to 6 p.m. on Saturday there will be a stickball demonstration at Lake Junaluska by one of the Cherokee stickball teams, where attendants can watch and learn about the sport.
Saturday evening there will be another show at the open air gym at Lake Junaluska with food trucks, music and dance group performances.
Stuart Auditorium will once again be home to the closing ceremony performance from 2 to 5 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. Due to the ample seating available, social distancing will be possible.
There are big plans for Folkmoot USA moving forward, as the world opens up from a year of pandemic. In the future, Fields envisions more interactive events at the center, like big dances where community members can come learn about music and dance, or just let loose, dance and have fun.
Fields hopes that one day soon all the empty classrooms at the Folkmoot Center will be filled with artists where they can create studios or other creative spaces. The center will soon start hosting a JAM affiliate, Junior Appalachian Musicians. JAM is a nonprofit that aims to preserve the music of Appalachia by teaching it to kids by ear. Musicians who know how to play a certain instrument, or a certain style sit down with kids once per week, for an hour and a half and impart their musical wisdom.
“It’s my intention to turn this into sort of an alternative arts and culture community center where people know that if they’re looking for music or arts and crafts or dance or whatever, that they can come stop by and chances are, it will be something happening here,” said Fields. “Music for me has been a blessing. I got obsessed with it at eight years old and never in a million years imagined that I would be doing it for a living, but I’ve been around the world with it for the last 20 years. It’s been a godsend, it gave me something to do and direction in my life. It gave me a passion and it’s allowed me to meet people from all over the world, create understanding and make people smile and have a good time. I think that’s kind of what we’re about here.”
Want to go?
Folkmoot USA is still accepting vendors and is in need of volunteers. To be a vendor or a volunteer, call the Folkmoot Center at 828.452.2997 or visit www.folkmoot.org.