15th Richmond Folk Festival draws crowds, showcases cultural traditions

Day three of the 15th Richmond Folk Festival is today from noon to 6pm. CT File Photo

Anya Sczerzenie, Contributing Writer

Charlie Constantino seemed to be having a good time yesterday at his first Richmond Folk Festival. But it was hard to tell, because he didn’t say much.

“He’s 7 months old,” said his mother, Alison Constantino. “He seems to like the music and the people-watching. We’ve been here an hour and have been watching the bluegrass performance for most of it.”

Bluegrass is just one of many music genres featured at the 15th Richmond Folk Festival, which is being held on and around Brown’s Island until today at 6 p.m. The festival features more than 100 performers and over 30 food vendors from cultures around the globe.

The Garifuna Collective, who performed on Saturday, came to Richmond on the last leg of an international tour that took them to the U.S., Canada, Europe and Asia. The Belizean group plays the music of the Garifuna people, a mixed Afro-Latino indigenous group from the Carribean.

“I think the audience are very strange, you know?” said Mohobub Flores, a percussionist who plays turtle shell drums. “The language that we sing in, they probably won’t understand, because it’s Garifuna, it’s our language. But the rhythm, the beat, that’s very interesting for the audience. The beat plays a large role.”

The Garifuna Collective held one of their performances in the Dominion Energy Dance Pavilion, where attendees had floor space to dance to the music and a reserved area for partner dancing.

The dance pavilion is one of six stages at Richmond Folk Festival, including the CoStar stage on Brown’s Island and the Altria, Richmond Times-Dispatch, and Capital One stages between 2nd and Tredegar streets.

A crafts marketplace and food truck areas are also featured. The food trucks span cuisines from American to Thai, Mexican and Greek.

Panfilo’s Güera, a musical act at Saturday’s festival, is a three-piece band that performs Mexican-American string music known as “tejano (tex-mex) conjunto fiddle.”

“What I’m doing is preserving and conserving tejano conjunto grassroots string,” said Belen Escobedo, violinist and leader of Panfilo’s Güera. “In the past it used to be all string instruments. Now it’s accordion, electric bass, drums, all this modern crazy stuff.”

Dale Watson and his fiance Celine Lee performed what they call ‘Ameripolitan’ music, which is an original genre of music derived from country-western songs.

“I went to the Richmond Folk Festival a couple years ago,” said Watson, who has been performing since the 1970s. “There are a lot more people [this year]. I feel like it’s running smoother, too.”

Other performers include traditional Scottish-Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis, the Native Pride Dancers from St. Paul, Minnesota, and the Lonesome River Band, a bluegrass band.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch Virginia Folklife Area hosts some non-musical performances. These included auto mechanic demonstrations and a contortionist.

The Richmond Folk Festival is free to attend and is funded by donations. The “bucket brigade” — a group of volunteers in orange vests who carry buckets for donations — are a common sight around the festival. 

According to their website, more than 220,000 people attended the Richmond Folk Festival last year, which is almost the population of the city of Richmond itself. 

The last day of the 15th Richmond Folk Festival is today from noon to 6 p.m. For more information about the event, visit richmondfolkfestival.org.

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