SALISBURY, Md. — After COVID-19 forced the cancellation of last year’s National Folk Festival, Salisbury is getting ready for its third year as host city for the event this weekend — this time with masks and social distancing.
City and festival officials have had many discussions about whether to continue with plans for this year’s event, and polled performers and staff on how they felt about going forward, said Mayor Jake Day.
“Not a single person has pulled out,” he said.
Festival attendees are being asked to wear masks and to maintain social distancing when possible. Free COVID-19 vaccinations will be available on Saturday, Sept. 11, and Sunday, Sept. 12, at the festival.
This year’s festival will be a bit smaller in scale than in the two previous years. There are four stages instead of seven, but Mayor Day said there will be some big names, including blues singer Shemekia Copeland, bluegrass group The Del McCoury Band and the U.S. Army Blues Band with a ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
The 2019 festival had a $45 million total economic impact on the area and drew 153,911 unique visitors to the event, but Mayor Day expects this year’s crowd might be a bit smaller.
“I think what we’re hoping for is a safe turnout,” he said.
The 80th National Folk Festival opens at 6:30 p.m. on Friday and runs through Sunday.
Here’s what you need to know in the days before and during the event:
Downtown streets will be closed
Streets in the downtown area will be closed to traffic starting this week in the area bound by U.S. 50, U.S. 13, Carroll Street and Mill Street.
A majority of the street closures will occur Friday morning of the festival. Any cars left on streets within the scope of the festival will need to be gone by 6 a.m., as hard barricades will close the footprint.
Streets closing before Friday are:
•West Market Street from Circle Avenue to Camden Street is scheduled to close Tuesday at 6 a.m.
•West Market Street from Main to Camden (southbound traffic impacted) will close Tuesday at 6 a.m. with local traffic allowed
•North Division Street from Main to U.S. 50 will close Tuesday at 6 a.m.
•East Main from Court Street to North Division Street will close Thursday at 6 a.m.
•South Division Street from Camden to Main Street (northbound traffic impacted) will close Thursday at 6 a.m.
The festival opens on Friday at 6:30 p.m. and closes at 9:30 p.m. Hours on Saturday are noon to 9:30 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.
Food vendors and the Festival Marketplace will open at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, and at 11 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Admission is free, but festival-goers are asked to make donations. A group of volunteers known as the bucket brigade will be circulating asking for support. The suggested donation is $10 per person per day.
For guest safety, vehicular traffic is not permitted on the actual event site. To reach the festival, guests may use any of the parking lots listed below and enter the site on foot.
•Lot 35, Fitzwater and West Main streets
•Lot 7, Lemmon Hill Lane
•Lot 13, West Chestnut Street
•Lot 9, Church Street
•Lot 10, East Church Street and Poplar Hill Avenue
•Lot 5, East Main Street
•Downtown Parking Garage, East Market Street
•Lot 30, Lake and West Main streets
•Lot 33, West Main Street
•TidalHealth gravel lots, behind TidalHealth Peninsula Regional, Waverly Drive
Designated handicap parking spaces are available in all city lots and the downtown parking garage. There will not be onsite transportation available between the various stages.
Fourteen food vendors will be located throughout the festival area, offering everything from crab cakes, jerk chicken, soba noodles, barbecue, Pad Thai and mac and cheese to fruit smoothies and ice cream.
Throughout the festival there will be a variety of non-alcoholic refreshments as well as beer and wine.
Additionally, there will be water bottle refilling stations.
Festivalgoers also can choose between numerous restaurants, bars and coffee shops in the area, including Angello’s Scoops and Gifts, Brew River, the Brick Room, Cake Art, Caribbean Flava, the Edge Lounge at LaQuinta, Evolution Craft Brewing Company, Mad Hatter Café, Market Street Inn, Maya Bella’s Pizza, Mojo’s, Mogan’s, Olde Towne Deli, Roadie Joe’s, SBY Coffee, Sushi de Kanpai, Together Café and the Ugly Pie that are located on or near the festival grounds.
Pets and other prohibited items
Pets, with the exception of service animals, are not permitted at the festival.
Other prohibited items are:
•Coolers or large backpacks
•Bottles and other glass containers
•Contraband such as drugs and weapons
•Flying objects such as drones, kites, Frisbees, footballs
What to bring
Items that are recommended include:
•Refillable water bottle
•Credit card & ID if you wish to have a beer (beer booths do not accept cash)
•Rain poncho or jacket
•Blanket or chair, although the festival provides audience members with about 4,000 chairs throughout the festival site.
The folk festival will take place rain or shine. The long-range forecast for the weekend calls for clear skies, with temperatures in the low 80s.