Richmond Folk Festival celebrates diversity, richness of American culture

Festival go-ers enjoy the folk concert. Photo by Jay Stonefield

Peggy Stansbery, Contributing Writer

People from all over the country gathered at Richmond’s historic riverfront to enjoy the diverse array of performances, foods and art offered at the Richmond Folk Festival this past weekend. 

One of the festival’s performers Gene Tagaban came all the way from Tacoma, Washington to perform — his shows involved aspects of his traditional culture: storytelling, dance and music he said. 

Tagaban grew up in Juneau, Alaska. He is Cherokee, Tlingit, Filipino and of the Takdeintaan clan from Hoonah, Alaska. Tagaban is a storyteller, performing artist, trainer, teacher and mentor, he said. 

Tagaban said he hoped people came to not only enjoy themselves but see, learn and appreciate the diversity of the people who are sharing their culture, art and talents with everybody. 

Tagaban performed multiple times throughout the weekend. He hopes his performances left people with an understanding of the richness and diversity of the indigenous people and what they have to offer, he said. 

“I hope that people will start acknowledging the history of the idenigenous people of this land,” Tagaban said. “Pretty much everywhere there is a city in this country there was an indengenous community there first. I hope that people will see that, realize that, become aware and start acknowledging that.”

The festival involved many local participants as well, according to the event’s website. T. Monique Hevener, a vendor at this year’s festival, is a Richmond local.

The Richmonder sold bath and body products from her company CitrisSan at the festival’s marketplace, according to Hevener. 

Hevener said she and husband had always attended the festival, but this was her first time vending at the festival. 

“It’s a wonderful event. They do such a great job putting it together and the volunteers are amazing,” Hevener said. “Then there’s the diversity of the music, instruments and things you have never heard before, it’s just awesome.” 

The unique xylophone is played at the RVA folk festival. Photo by Jay Stonefield

Richmond locals and festival attendees Alex Luck and Susan Lipp have come every year since the festival began, they said. 

Luck said she knows people coming from out of town just to attend the festival.

“That shows that it is a big deal and hopefully there are people who are making this a destination, because the festival deserves that,” Luck said. 

The diversity of the performers and the atmosphere is a highlight of the festival, Lipp said. The festival aligns with what’s been going on in Richmond in recent years through highlighting and celebrating the diversity Richmond has, according to Lipp.

“I think what’s wonderful is we had three years of the national folk festival and that we have been able to sustain that for 15 years afterwards,” Lipp said. “For Richmond to continue it after the funding went away for the national festival is pretty incredible. It shows that Richmond is committed to the arts.”

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