Best Mind-Stimulating Local Event or Series

Readers' Pick

First place:

Richmond Folk Festival

220 S. Third St.

Second place: Richmond Forum

Third place: Arts in the Park

There used to be a joke that when you flew into Richmond, you needed to set your watch back 30 years. That joke doesn't really land quite as well anymore, ever since Richmond has become one of the nation's most happening up-and-coming cities, according to various magazine list-makers.

And one of our signature, best-attended public events that helped start our momentum is the Richmond Folk Festival, an offshoot from the National Folk Festival, that will be in its 15th year when it takes place Oct. 11 through 13 along the James River downtown. The volunteer-run, free three-day event has been known to draw 200,000 people in good weather to the riverfront to enjoy dozens of diverse musical artists and folk-art practitioners.

The reason it's so mind-stimulating? Well, let us count the ways: How about the sheer musical variety the average person simply doesn't normally get in Richmond: From Sun Ra's Arkestra to Inuit throat singers, Washington go-go legends such as Trouble Funk, and last year's hugely attended performance by gospel legend Mavis Staples. That's right, all for free, though you should be a good Richmonder and donate to the bucket brigade every day you attend, so the festival can maintain the quality.

Style Weekly always provides an unofficial guide to the festival just to list some of our music writers' picks of artists to see. But the great thing is we always miss a few, because there's so much to choose from, and undoubtedly, each year finds a few sleeper hits that become crowd favorites. As funk legend George Clinton once said, "Free your mind, and your ass will follow."

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