Welcome to our unofficial guide to this year’s 15th annual Richmond Folk Festival. If you’re new to the festival, you should know a few things.
For years, there have been many attempts to establish a local music festival in Richmond. When the National Folk Festival started in Richmond in 2005, it ran for three years before transitioning to the Richmond Folk Festival, which is run by Venture Richmond, though members from the National Council for the Traditional Arts still assist in various ways.
The free-to-attend Richmond Folk Festival has been the first major local music festival that has been wildly successful, often drawing over 200,000 people to the sprawling grounds downtown by the river. The budget has grown to close to $1.5 million. The reason for this success, plain and simple, has been grass-roots support from the community, as well as continued corporate sponsorship. More than 1,300 volunteers help make this thing happen every year, and without them, it wouldn’t fly.
Also worth noting is that the festival draws a widely diverse crowd for the weekend, a rarity for any kind of local festival. Last year, they had around 200,000 people and raised $118,000 in individual donations via the orange buckets you will see volunteers carrying around the festival. New to this year’s festival, there will be a text number to help festivalgoers donate (see the story in this issue).
As always, this year’s unofficial guide by Style features a look at a few of the highlight performers from this year’s festival chosen by members of our music writing team, as well as a story about a new compilation live album, made with the help of the locals at Spacebomb, drawing from the entire history of the festival.
But the tremendous success of this event was never a sure thing. To kick things off, we thought we’d use a brief oral history to go back to the very beginning — to show just how this festival got its legs and managed to make it to its 15th birthday.
By contrast, this festival hasn’t worked as well in every other city where the National Folk Festival has taken it. For instance, in Nashville, a city with a massive music presence and history of its own, it failed to take off completely.
Richmond has set the bar in terms of making the festival its own and we should be proud of that.
Mr. Lucky: Dale Watson’s “Ameripolitan” sound has deep country roots. by Brent Baldwin