National Folk Festival (United States)
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The National Folk Festival (NFF) is an itinerant folk festival in the United States. Since 1934, it has been run by the National Council for the Traditional Arts (NCTA) and has been presented in 26 communities around the nation. After leaving some of these communities, the National Folk Festival has spun off several locally run folk festivals in its wake, including the Lowell Folk Festival, the Richmond Folk Festival, the American Folk Festival and, most recently, the Montana Folk Festival.
Beginnings in St. Louis
The National Folk Festival in the United States (known also as the National) was first presented in St. Louis in 1934, the National Folk Festival is the oldest multi-cultural traditional arts celebration in the nation and the first event of national stature to put the arts of many nations, races and languages into the same event on an equal footing. Some of the artists presented at the first festival are now legendary and the recordings and other documentation made possible by the National are precious. W.C. Handy's first performance on a desegregated stage was at the 1938 National. It was the first event of national stature to present the blues, Cajun music, a polka band, a Tex-Mex conjunto, a Sacred Harp ensemble, Peking opera, and others.
Eleanor Roosevelt was involved in the National's move to Washington, D.C. in 1938, and served as the festival's honorary Chair.
- In 1934, NFF was held in St. Louis, Missouri
- In 1935, NFF was held in Chattanooga, Tennessee
- In 1936, NFF was held in Dallas, Texas
- In 1937, NFF was held in Chicago, Illinois
- In 1938, NFF was held in Washington, D.C. for five years (1938, 1939, 1940, 1941, 1942)
Then it went to cities of New York, Philadelphia, and Cleveland.
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- From 1947-1955, it stayed in St. Louis, Missouri
Oklahoma City and Nashville followed, and then the festival returned to Washington, D.C., in 1960. The National Folk Festival struggled through the 1960s, never staying in one place for more than a year. It was held in various places such as Florence and Covington, Kentucky; St. Petersburg, Florida; Denver, Colorado; Syracuse, New York; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Knoxville, Tennessee.
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- From 1971 until 1982, the National was held in Vienna, Virginia at Wolf Trap
- In 1985 and 1986 the National was held at Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area, a newly formed park an hour south of Cleveland, Ohio
- In 1986 the National was held in New York City to commemorate the refurbishment of the statue of Liberty
- in 1987, 1988(50th anniversary), and 1989 the National was held in Lowell National Historical Park in Lowell, Massachusetts. Lowell continues with the Lowell Folk Festival each year since.
- In 1990, 1991, and 1992, the National was held in Johnstown, Pennsylvania
- in 1993, 1994, and 1995, the National was held in Chattanooga, Tennessee
- in 1996, 1997, and 1998 the National was held in Dayton, Ohio. Dayton continues with the CITYFOLK festival each year thereafter.
- In 1999, 2000, and 2001, the National was held in East Lansing, Michigan
- In 2002, 2003, and 2004, the National was held in Bangor, Maine. Bangor continues with the American Folk Festival each year.
- In 2005, 2006, and 2007, the National was held in Richmond, Virginia. Richmond continues with the Richmond Folk Festival every year.
- In 2008, 2009, and 2010, the National was held in Butte, Montana. Butte continues with the Montana Folk Festival.
- In 2011, 2012, and 2013, the National will be held in Nashville, Tennessee.
- In 2015, 2016, and 2017 (75th anniversary), the National will be held in Greensboro, North Carolina.
2005 Festival acts
The 2005 festival includes Ivo Papasov & Yuri Yunakov - Legends of Bulgarian "Wedding Music", Cheick Hamala Diabate Ensemble - West African jeli, Chuna McIntyre - Yup'ik Eskimo Traditions, Marcia Ball - New Orleans boogie-woogie piano, Prem Raja Mahat - Nepalese Music and Dance, First African Baptist Choir - African American gospel, Bernard Allison - Blues, Sankofa String - African American string band, D.W. Groethe - cowboy poetry and songs and Papa Susso - kora master. Also featured at festival is music from the Crooked Road. These artists include: Ralph Stanley & The Clinch Mountain Boys (Sunday Only), No Speed Limit, Carter Family Band featuring Dale Jett, Linda Lay, David Lay, and Deborah Jean Sheets, White Top Mountain Band, Crooked Road Band, The Round Knob Singers, Kirk Sutphin and Sammy Shelor, plus dancers Brenda Joyce and Shannon Joyce.
These artists join Cephas & Wiggins (Piedmont blues), The Paschall Brothers (African American a cappella gospel), Mariachi los Camperos de Nati Cano (Mexican mariachi), Mountain Heart (bluegrass), Los Pleneros de la 21 (Puerto Rican bomba y plena), Khmer Classical Dance Ensemble (Cambodian) and Frank London's Klezmer Brass Allstars (Jewish klezmer), The Madison Hummingbirds (African American gospel brass shout band); J. P. Cormier (Cape Breton fiddler), Hayden Thompson & The Rhythm Rockers (Rockabilly, Dervish (Irish), The Savoy Family Band (Cajun) and Zydeco Joe and the Laissez Le Bon Temps Roulez Band (zydeco)completing the list of performing artists at the 67th National Folk Festival.
2006 NFF was held October 13–15, 2006 and attracted nearly 100,000 attendees. Performers included Chuck Brown, the "Godfather of Go-Go"; Sonny Burgess, of early rockabilly notoriety; the Skatalites, the group that virtually invented ska and whose members are considered founders of the modern Jamaica sound; and the Mahotella Queens, an acclaimed South Africa mbaqanga ensemble. The Richmond Times Dispatch announced a month prior to the festival that Mahotella Queens would not be performing.
Other announced artists were:
- Kenny & Amanda (Kenny & Amanda Smith Band)
- Le Vent du Nord
- The Quebe Sisters Band
- Santiago Jiménez, Jr.
- Yuqin Wang & Zhengli Xu
- The Boston Edge: Joe Derrane, Seamus Connolly and John McGann
- The Lee Boys
"Gulf Coast Musical Traditions" segment was added later and featured traditions affected by Hurricane Katrina and are as follows:
Several additional acts were announced less than a month before the festival and include AltaiKAI (kai throat singers from the Altai Republic, Russia), Grace Chang (Chinese zither), Jamesie & the All-Stars (scratch band, aka quelbe music, from the island of St. Croix), and Warner Williams and Jay Summerour, playing Piedmont blues.
The 2007 NFF ( 69th National Folk Festival ) was held October 12–14, 2007. Festival organizers announced on June 19 that year the first of more than 25 performing groups expected to play at that year’s National Folk Festival, to include:
- Professor John Styles, Punch and Judy-style slapstick hand puppetry
- percussive dancers: Jason Samuels Smith (African American tapper) and North Indian Kathak master Pandit Chitresh Das,
- Grupo Fantasma: Latin band from Austin, Texas that plays Mambo, merengue, salsa, and cumbia
- Vishten, young Acadian musician from Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia
- Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver - bluegrass and gospel legend and National Heritage Fellow winner
- The Holmes Brothers blues-based American roots music
- DL Menard with Terry Huval and the Jambalaya Cajun Band -- Honky-tonk Cajun music
- Maggie Ingram and the Ingramettes -- gospel singers from Richmond, Virginia
The 2008 NFF (70th National Folk Festival) was held in Butte, Montana, July 11–13, 2008. Acts included:
- Alex Meixner Band -- Polka
- Celtic Fiddle Masters: Liz Carroll and Jerry Holland with Donna Long and Kieran O'Hare -- Irish and Cape Breton
- Clinton Fearon -- Jamaican Reggae
- Grace Chang -- Guzheng (Chinese Zither)
- Hula Halau 'O Lilinoe -- Traditional Hawaiian Hula
- Juan Manuel Barco y su conjunto -- Tex-Mex
- Le Vent du Nord -- Québécois Music, Song and Dance
- Montana Masters of Cowboy Poetry: Wally McRae and Paul Zarzyski -- Cowboy Poets
- Nathan and the Zydeco Cha-Chas -- Zydeco
- Oinkari Basque Dancers -- Traditional Basque Dancing and Music
- Rahim AlHaj -- Iraqi Oud
- Ricardo Lemvo and Makina Loca -- Congolese / Cuban
- Rodney Miller & Airdance -- New England Contra Dance
- Scott Fore, and Spencer Strickland -- Appalachian
- Shemekia Copeland -- Blues
- Terry “Harmonica” Bean -- Acoustic Blues
- The Berntsons -- Norwegian American
- The Brotherhood Singers -- A Capella Quartet-Style Gospel
- The Fox Family -- Metis fiddling
- The Quebe Sisters Band -- Texas Fiddling and Harmony Singing
- The Seldom Scene -- Bluegrass
- Wylie & The Wild West -- Western Music
- Yamncut -- Salish dance, drumming and song
- Yuqin Wang & Zhengli Xu -- Chinese Rod Puppetry
- Yuri Yunakov Ensemble -- Bulgarian Wedding Music
-  Archived September 12, 2005 at the Wayback Machine
-  Archived October 18, 2005 at the Wayback Machine
-  Archived October 5, 2006 at the Wayback Machine
-  Archived August 21, 2010 at the Wayback Machine
-  Archived November 1, 2005 at the Wayback Machine
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- Folklife Magazine history of the National Folk Festival part I
- Folklife Magazine history of the National Folk Festival part II