Salisbury is ready once again to host 100,000 people or more this weekend as the 81st National Folk Festival begins Friday.
After Covid-19 forced a 2020 cancellation and a scaled-back event last year, this year’s schedule more closely resembles the memorable pre-pandemic years.
Festival organizers are expecting a good turnout as life returns to normal.
“People are excited to be going to events,” said Festival Manager Caroline O’Hare. “Everyone’s excited.”
The festival will be held Friday through Sunday in the Downtown area. It is a free event and will be held rain or shine.
Performances will be across four stages. The Richard A. Henson Foundation Stage on Division Street in front of the Government Office Building will offer protection from the elements with tent over the seating area this year, O’Hare said. Other locations are the TidalHealth Stage on Carroll Street, the Perdue Dance Pavilion in the large parking lot near the library and the Maryland Traditions Folklife Stage near the Downtown Parking Garage.
All of the stages will be under tents except TidalHealth which is under a large shade tree, O’Hare said.
This year’s performers come from a wide range of genres including Walter "Wolfman" Washington & the Roadmasters with funk and R&B music, cowboy and Western music from Wylie & the Wild West and E.U. featuring Sugar Bear with go-go music.
Other performers will offer Ukrainian folk music, zydeco, steel guitar, bluegrass, Himalayan music and African American spirituals.
This year will see a return to the Marketplace and Family Area, said Mayor Jake Day. Both areas were not included last year because Covid-19 was still a concern, especially among children who were unable to be vaccinated.
In spite of the scaled-back event last year, the festival proved popular, Day said.
“We had big attendance, but a small footprint,” he said.
The Marketplace this year will feature 26 artisans and craftspeople from the Delmarva Peninsula and across Maryland offering their wares. The Family Area includes children’s activities and street performers including a juggler and skateboard demonstrations.
This year’s National Folk Festival will mark the final year of the event’s residency in Salisbury. In 2023, the festival will transition to the Maryland Folk Festival and will remain in Salisbury.
The National Folk Festival will then move onto another host city for the next three years. That city has not yet been announced.
Salisbury hosted the event in 2018 and 2019, but it was canceled in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic and a virtual event was held instead. A smaller live version of it returned last year. Salisbury was chosen to host it for a fourth time this year.
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 next week in the area bound by Route 50, Route 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.
The festival opens on Friday at 6 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. Parking will be free all weekend in these lots and the city parking garage:
There also will be a free bike valet service in the fenced and gated area in front of the DelmarvaNow building. Bikes will be secure there under the watchful eyes of volunteers.
New this year will be two courtesy golf carts that will carry anyone with mobility issues – including pregnant women and the elderly -- between the various festival stages. The six-seat golf carts will run on a loop through the festival grounds, and anyone in need of a ride can flag one down. Both will be clearly marked as Courtesy Carts.
“We’re very happy to have that this year,” O’Hare said.
Festival organizers also have prepared an accessibility map that shows the distances between stages, and they have marked routes for wheelchairs and other mobility devices. Each of the stages will have spaces set aside for mobility devices.
Designated handicapped parking spaces are available in all city lots and the Downtown parking garage. Anyone with mobility issues can be dropped off in a marked area on Church Street near the back of Roadie Joe’s.
Sixteen food vendors will be located throughout the festival area, offering everything from crab cakes, jerk chicken, ribs, soba noodles, barbecue, and mac and cheese to fruit smoothies and ice cream.
Among them are American Fruit Smoothie, Espresso A Go Go, Hot and Fresh Grill, Island Noodles, Johnson Bay Oyster Company, Kona Ice, London Court Beverage, The Milestone, NC Ribs on Wheels, North Star Catering, Sherri’s Crab Cakes, Smoothie Island, Spready Oak Country Café, Thai Master Grill, The Chicken Smells Good, Virginia Vendor Food Service.
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
Festival-goers also can choose between numerous restaurants, bars and coffee shops in the area, including Brew River, the Brick Room, Cake Art, Caribbean Flava, the Edge Lounge at LaQuinta, Evolution Craft Brewing Company, Junior’s Famous Jerk Chicken & Ribs, Mad Hatter Café, Market Street InnMojo’s, Mogan’s Oyster House, Revival, Rise Up Coffee, Roadie Joe’s, Room & Board (Maya Bella’s Pizza), Sugar Rush by Theresa, Sushi de Kanpai, Together Café, Two Scoops Ice Cream & Waffles 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:
What to bring
Items that are recommended include:
The forecast for the weekend is temperatures in the mid to upper 80s. The folk festival will take place rain or shine.