Scaled down National Folk Festival in Salisbury promises a ‘very full lineup’

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The National Folk Festival will return to Downtown Salisbury this fall, but visitors can expect to see a scaled-down event as the city emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic.

There will be three stages instead of the seven seen in 2018 and 2019, but organizers are promising a “very full lineup” for the festival which is scheduled for Sept. 10-12.

“Even though we only have three stages this year, the festival will be no less spectacular than it has in the past,” said Caroline O’Hare, the local festival manager.

Stages will be located on North Division Street near the Government Office Building, in Lot 1 by the library and on Carroll Street opposite TidalHealth Peninsula Regional.

In addition to the stage performances, the festival will offer special family and Maryland folklife programming, and diverse food and beverage offerings.

Later this spring and summer, organizers will announce festival performers and other details of the event, she said.

The announcement comes on the heels of two indicators that the region is beginning to return to normal: the return of the Salisbury Marathon and 3rd Friday.

“Our community is on the right track to host this event in a safe way, taking into consideration all safety protocols that are needed,” said City Administrator Julia Glanz.

Plans so far call for wearing masks and maintaining social distancing, but it will all be reassessed over the coming months, O’Hare said.

This year’s event will mark the celebration of the 80th National Folk Festival as well as the third year of the National’s residency in Salisbury.

Glanz said the festival will be a key moment in the city’s recovery from the global pandemic and will welcome audiences to enjoy the recently completed revitalization projects throughout the heart of Downtown.

Festival organizers also announced that Perdue Farms is returning as a presenting sponsor.

“This year’s festival will be an especially welcome celebration as we collectively move toward a return to normalcy, especially in our own backyard,” said Perdue CEO Randy Day. “We look forward to again supporting this great event.”

TidalHealth Peninsula Regional has also signed on as a sponsor for the third year.

“TidalHealth is pleased to support the National Folk Festival and looks forward to gathering safely in Downtown Salisbury this September,” said Chris Hall, vice president and chief business officer at TidalHealth Peninsula Regional. 

Organizers seeking additional private support to match the public investments made for this event as an economic development, recovery and revitalization opportunity.

The event is supported in part by public funding from the city of Salisbury, the American Rescue Plan, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Maryland State Arts Council.

Enthusiasm for the festival’s return extends all the way to Annapolis.

“The first lady and I are pleased to once again serve as honorary co-chairs for the National Folk Festival in Salisbury, Maryland,” said Gov. Larry Hogan. “Now more than ever, we recognize the economic and cultural impacts events like the National Folk Festival can have in our communities. As organizers for the festival proceed with planning, we know that a commitment to safety and adherence to local and state ordinances will be crucial.”

Last year’s National Folk Festival was postponed amid statewide restrictions on gatherings during the pandemic.

Salisbury hosted the event in 2018 and 2019, and will host it once more this year before it moves on to another city. The 2019 National Folk Festival drew some 153,900 people to Salisbury over three days.

The free event is spread throughout Downtown Salisbury which in the past featured about 350 performers on seven stages that have ranged from bluegrass, zydeco, Texas swing and Irish tunes to Navajo hoop dancers, Appalachian storytelling, and music from China, Iraq and Guatemala.

The National Folk Festival started in 1934 in St. Louis and has moved to cities around the country since then. 

For more information about this year’s event, visit NationalFolkFestival.com.