The city of Salisbury and the National Council for the Traditional Arts have announced the final attendance estimates for the multi-year residency of the National Folk Festival.
Through five years of partnership from 2018 to 2022, including four in-person presentations of the festival, more than 400,000 people visited Downtown Salisbury to attend the event.
“Never in Salisbury’s history has an event brought so many people to our city, right into the heart of Downtown, until the National Folk Festival,” said Mayor Jake Day. “This festival has forever changed Salisbury and cemented our foothold in the arts and culture space. We are proud to have been the place where some 400,000 people congregated to sing, dance, laugh, and learn together – it was the greatest honor.”
Each year, tens of thousands of attendees filled the streets of Downtown Salisbury, shopped at boutiques on the Plaza, and ate at mainstay restaurants–all while enjoying the art, culture, and heritage ushered in by the National Folk Festival.
“Since the beginning, the National Folk Festival exceeded all expectations. Its success is felt not just during the festival weekend, but year round,” says National Folk Festival Local Manager Caroline O’Hare.
“The festival has been a catalyst for growing civic pride, new artistic and cultural endeavors, and a regional economic impact in the tens of millions of dollars brought about by welcoming over 400,000 attendees to Salisbury since 2018,” O’Hare said.
“The city, region, and country has transformed more dramatically than we could imagine during our tenure with the National Folk Festival in Salisbury,” said NCTA Executive Director Lora Bottinelli. “The city, local partners, and nationally acclaimed traditional artists found themselves navigating one of the most transformative periods in American cultural history as it comes to public space. Experiencing these changes and doing this work with partners grounded in a joint commitment to carrying forward these events for the positive outcomes they generate has been at the heart of our success.”
The National Folk Festival was originally slated to stay in Salisbury for the customary three years starting in 2018, but because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the city got to serve as host for two additional years. The repeated and lasting success of the National Folk Festival in Salisbury would not have been possible without the support and involvement of the local community, including attendees, volunteers, staff, donors and sponsors, and even performers and artists like Maryland WERKS, Lurking Class Skate Shop, and Maryland Spirituals Initiative Ensemble.
“Every time this festival succeeded, so did our community,” said Day.
“People from all corners of our City came together to be part of this festival, whether behind the stage, on it, or in the crowd. The impact goes beyond the festival weekend–it’s about uplifting the creativity and culture that already exists in our community,” he said.
Even though the National Folk Festival will move on to a new host city, the music will play on here at home. Following the model of previous National Folk Festival host cities, Salisbury will host the Maryland Folk Festival, a similar but brand-new festival for our city and our state.
“The Maryland Folk Festival is an exciting new chapter for our community and one I feel very lucky to be part of,” says O’Hare, who is now the events and culture manager for the City of Salisbury. “Attendees will have the opportunity to experience world class musicians, dancers, storytellers, artisans, and more. As a legacy festival of the National, we will continue our mission to produce a free, large-scale, multicultural event that shines a light on the diverse traditions, cultures, and artistry found in Maryland and across the country. The festival's impact is underlined by our commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion as we state proudly – all are welcome in Salisbury.”
Dates for the 2023 Maryland Folk Festival will be announced on the City of Salisbury, Maryland, Facebook page and the Maryland Folk Festival website in the coming weeks. To sign up for email updates on the Maryland Folk Festival, please visit mdfolkfest.com.
Because there are no fixed entry or exit points to the festival, crowd estimates are made every year by analyzing a number of different data sources. Stage cameras, drone footage, social media interactions, and cell phone tracking through the city’s Department of Information Services are the primary means of tallying attendance.