Richmond Folk Festival is back for its 18th Anniversary

Peggy Stansbery, Contributing Writer

The Richmond Folk Festival returns for its 18th anniversary Oct. 7-9 with a diverse musical lineup and visitors from across the country, according to the festival’s website

The festival aims to celebrate the roots, richness and variety of American culture through music, dance, traditional craft and food, according to the festival’s website

The festival started in Richmond in 2005 as the National Folk Festival, according to the festival’s website. The festival developed into the Richmond Folk Festival in 2008 after the National Folk Festival finished their scheduled three year stay.

Stephen Lecky, the director of events at Venture Richmond, has managed the festival since its start, according to Lecky. This year there will be over 800 volunteers, 30 performing acts and over 50 food and craft vendors, Lecky said.

“The festival has grown over the years to be the largest free folk festival in the country,” Lecky said. “If the weather is nice we will have roughly 200k people over the weekend.” 

The festival can cater to all in the local community since it’s free, according to Lecky. 

“A lot of people might not have had the opportunity to attend a large-scale, world class event like this, and to do it in your own city for free is a great treat,” Lecky said. 

People can expect to see, taste and hear new things and enjoy Richmond’s downtown riverfront at the festival, according to Lecky. 

Similarly to Lecky, food vendor Ron Joseph has been a part of the Richmond Folk Festival since its start. 

“It’s all about the music and the culture and it just gets better every year,” Joseph said. “It’s just a great event.”

Joseph had owned Strawberry Street Cafe in Richmond for 30 years until he sold it in 2018, he said. Since 2019, he has owned Strawberry Street Events, a concession and catering company. 

“Every weekend is a different festival but I like this one because there’s no travel for us, it’s our home base. We get to listen to good music and the people of Venture treat their food vendors very well,” Joseph said. 

Strawberry Street Events will be selling their Nashville Hot Concept this year at the festival, according to Joseph. This includes: Nashville hot chicken sandwiches, Nashville hot chicken baskets, Memphis style pulled pork barbeque and other variations of chicken.

“They don’t just come from Richmond but they come from all over. They come for the music, the food, and the vendor shopping. It’s just a good event put on by good people,” Joseph said. 

This will be art vendor Sophie Smith’s first year being a part of the Richmond Folk Festival. Smith graduated from VCU in 2019 and now runs her own business, Sophie Printmaking, as a linocut printmaker, according to Smith. Sophie Printmaking sells printed goods highlighting Richmond. 

Sophie Smith prints artwork to sell. 
Photo courtesy of Sophie Smith

Smith said she has enjoyed attending the festival over the years and began wondering if she could create enough prints to be a part of it herself. Last year she took the leap and decided to apply. Now she will be selling her prints at this year’s folk festival.

The festival brings all communities together to celebrate and appreciate, Smith said.

“This event highlights all the different people we have in this wonderful city and surrounding it. Folk art and music is so important, and it’s so wonderful that we have this giant event to celebrate all of it,” Smith said. 

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