Salisbury striving for in-person National Folk Festival this September


National Folk Festival organizers said they hope to hold an in-person event in Salisbury this September, after the Covid-19 pandemic forced the event’s cancellation last year.

The 80th festival is scheduled for Sept. 10-12.

“We are moving forward with our plans to hold an in-person event this September,” said Festival Manager Caroline O’Hare.

“The festival takes almost a year to coordinate, so we are hoping for the best and planning with the health and well-being of attendees, artists, crew, local businesses and the community in mind,” she said. 

More details will be shared with the public as plans take shape, she said.

“We know that we must reimagine the festival and be willing to adapt as the ongoing public health crisis unfolds,” said Laura Botinelli, Executive Director of the National Council for the Traditional Arts.

Organizers of the Richmond Folk Festival are similarly planning and considering the challenges for an in-person event the weekend of Oct. 8-10, in Richmond. Updates on their plans will be shared later this spring as well, she said.

Meanwhile, Bottinelli said other folk festivals scheduled for this summer are either cancelled or in doubt.

“While there is much to be hopeful about as vaccinations continue to pick up speed, much uncertainty remains and we, unfortunately, are not yet in a place where we can plan for large, public gatherings in early summer,” she said.

Organizers of the Lowell Folk Festival are not producing an in-person event July 23-25 and an in-person gathering at the Montana Folk Festival the weekend July 9-11 is unlikely, Bottinelli said

“We have been hearing word from festival producers across the country who are making similar decisions for their summer 2021 events,” she said. 

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 before it moves on to another city. The 2019 National Folk Festival drew 153,911 people to Salisbury over three days.

The free event is spread throughout Downtown Salisbury featuring some 350 performers on seven stages that in the past have ranged from bluegrass, zydeco, Texas swing and Irish tunes to Navaho 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.