Folkmoot USA, The State International Festival of North Carolina, is an international folk festival held since 1984 in Waynesville, North Carolina and surrounding communities. During its history, the two-week event has featured around 200 groups from approximately 100 countries. The Southeast Tourism Society has named Folkmoot USA one of its top twenty events for 20 years. The Folkmoot USA non-profit organization has its headquarters in the former Hazelwood Elementary School. The name "Folkmoot", used for a festival in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, means "meeting of the people". In its 20th year in 2003, Folkmoot USA attracted 350 performers and 75,000 spectators from over 40 states. One study estimated its contribution to the economy at $4 million. The North Carolina General Assembly declared Folkmoot USA to be the state's official international folk festival in 2003.
In addition to Canton, Clyde, Maggie Valley, Waynesville and Lake Junaluska in Haywood County, 2014 performances took place in Asheville at Asheville High School, Diana Wortham Theatre and, for the first time, Asheville's Jewish Community Center. Other locations were Franklin, Bryson City, Burnsville, Flat Rock, Cherokee, and Hickory.
Selection of performers
Each year, hundreds of groups apply to perform, but only 10 to 12 are chosen. In 2002, executive director Jackie Bolden explained that the festival offers different cultures each year, and each group has to give top-quality performances of the dance or music of their particular culture. The performances might represent holidays, battles, or occupations. Folkmoot USA strives to make sure as many countries as possible perform, so countries not previously represented get a higher priority in the selection process.
Regardless of their national origin, performers receive the best treatment.
Folkmoot USA belongs to the International Council of Folklore Festival Organizations and Traditional Arts, or CIOFF, based in Paris. Most groups that perform for Folkmoot USA have some connection to CIOFF, and in case of a last-minute cancellation, CIOFF connections can find a replacement.
In recent years, audience members have been able to participate with the performers in workshops, getting a close-up look at the costumes, musical instruments, dance techniques and crafts of the various cultures.
Meaning of the name
In Anglo-Saxon England, a folkmoot or folkmote (Old English - a meeting of the people) was a governing general assembly consisting of all the free members of a tribe, community or district. It was the forerunner to the witenagemot, which was in turn in some respects the precursor of the modern Parliament.
Folkmoot USA began with a visit by Waynesville surgeon Dr. Clinton Border and a square dance team to a folk festival in Sidmouth, England in 1973. Eleven years later, Border believed Western North Carolina, which had a history of preserving its traditional culture, would be the ideal location for an American folk festival. One month after Border presented his plan, a board of directors began work on the first Folkmoot USA.
The first event took place in 1984, the same year as North Carolina's 400th birthday celebration, featuring performers from England, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Turkey, Mexico, Puerto Rico and India. The previous name for the event was North Carolina International Folk Festival, Folkmoot USA.
In the 1990s, Hazelwood Elementary School, built in 1923 and located at 112 Virginia Avenue in the Hazelwood section of Waynesville, was replaced with a new, larger building. In 2002, the Folkmoot Friendship Center opened in the former school. Previously, Waynesville Middle School housed performers. When not used for the festival, the new facility became a community center, with art work from the various countries in the hallways. The organization's mission of understanding other cultures continued the rest of the year.
In 2014, with no other potential uses for the old Hazelwood School, the Haywood County school system chose to let Folkmoot have the aging school, which desperately needed repairs and upgrades, especially to its roof. The change would allow Folkmoot to have events year-round; for the more than ten years the organization leased the building, the uncertainty about its future location prevented Folkmoot from expanding its programs. Owning its building also meant Folkmoot would have to raise money for the building, which it could finally do as the owner. The gift was the largest ever to the organization, worth $1.3 million according to tax records.
- 2007: Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Italy, Greece, Peru, Russia, Romania, Macedonia, Korea
- 2009: Spain, Greece, Serbia, Kenya, Romania, Georgia, Israel, India, Mexico, Netherlands
- 2010: Russia, Latvia, France, Switzerland, Peru, Jordan, Portugal, Poland
- 2011: Burundi, Canada, Croatia, Finland, Guadaloupe, Italy, Trinidad and Tobago
- 2012: New Zealand, France, Serbia, Belgium, Puerto Rico, Philippines, Indonesia, Peru
- 2013: France, Martinique, Thailand, Japan, Slovakia, Mexico, Canada, Paraguay
- 2014: Taiwan, Russia, Turkey, Romania, Trinidad and Tobago, Colombia
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