Folk Fest to return to Richmond this weekend

Julie DiNisio
Staff Writer

This weekend, from October 8th to 10th, the third annual Richmond Folk Festival will be held on downtown Richmond’s riverfront, from 2nd to 7th Streets and from Byrd Street to the river.

Beginning Friday evening and ending Sunday afternoon, locations for the festival will also include Belle Isle, the American Civil War Center, Tredegar Street, and portions of the Federal Reserve parking lot.

Last year’s festival drew a turnout of more than 160,000 people, featuring performers like blues musician Swamp Dogg and go-go band Trouble Funk. Jerry Douglas, expert Dobro player, was also included in the line-up. For those with a taste for international folk music, the festival included the African Samba Mapangala & Orchestre Virunga, popular for their Congolese rumba.

Stephen Lecky, the festival manager, expressed no desire to drastically alter the types of performances this year.

“We stick to what works, a variety of genres,” Lecky said. “Everything from go-go, blues, Haitian, bluegrass and so much more.”

More than thirty music and dance acts will perform at this year’s festival. Richmond native Harold Lilly, a key figure in the city’s gospel community, will appear on the electric organ. Some acts – like The Dazzlers, Deke Dickerson, and The Ecco-Fonics – will pay tribute to Virginia rockabilly, a native mixture of country, blues, and gospel that emerged in the 1950s.

The Richmond Folk Festival is an offshoot of the National Folk Festival that has been in existence for 72 years. It travels to a variety of cities and stays in each one for three years. Lecky, who worked with the National Folk Festival while it was in Richmond from 2005-2007, said “the goal is for each city to continue on with its own festival after the NFF has left.”

In addition to its musical acts, the Richmond Folk Festival will feature a variety of craft demonstrators. One of these is George Butler, whose family has been building boats since 1906. He is an active participant in the Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program, which according the program’s website, attempts to pass on art forms in ways that are “conscious of history and faithful to tradition.”

The festival’s international focus will be displayed through both performers and cuisine. Indian, African, Caribbean, Irish, and other varieties of food will all be available for purchase.

The Richmond Folk Festival will take place rain or shine, and admission is free. Parking information and a schedule of events are located on the festival’s website,

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