Music and much more: Richmond region gathers for 14th Folk Festival
Not a string had been strummed.
No pipe blown, nor a drum beat.
And not a single note had been sung at the Richmond Folk Festival on Friday evening, and already hundreds had made their way to the city’s riverfront for the 14th annual event.
Lynn Berry and Teresa Cross, both of Richmond, scoped out their seats on a hill that created a sort of natural amphitheater ahead of the opening act, gospel artist Cora Harvey Armstrong, who kicked off the music festival at 6:30 p.m. on the Altria Stage. (The festival’s biggest name, R&B singer Mavis Staples, plays the same stage Saturday at 5:15 p.m.)
The three-day event — featuring 40 performers from diverse genres that span bluegrass and traditional folk to reggae and Afro-Colombian champeta — will attract about 200,000 people, according to festival organizers.
Berry and Cross have been attending the festival since it began more than a decade ago.
“It’s just a great festival,” Berry said. “It’s a fall thing. The weather came just in time. What a difference from Monday to today.”
Despite a heavy dose of rain and high winds from Tropical Storm Michael a day earlier, on Friday the festival went off pretty much without a hitch — minus one tent. The large white tent that typically covers the Dominion Energy Dance Pavilion was damaged in the storm and removed before the performances Friday night. Despite the rain, there was mud only in spots.
Glenn Amey of Richmond brought his four boys to soak in some cultural experiences, as well as reunite with some old friends.
“Socially, it’s great,” he said. “You get to reconnect. It feels like a community. Plus, we’re trying to throw as much stuff at the kids as we can and see what will stick.”
Amey’s advice for festival newcomers: “Don’t stay in one place.”
“Look for the strange stuff, the stuff you don’t know what it is or how to explain it,” he said. “Because it’s all great.”
Ahead of the first performances Friday, Thomas A. Silvestri, president and publisher of the Richmond TimesDispatch, hosted a Q&A session with some of the artists. For RTD Public Square: Festival Interviews, he talked with Irish piper Jarlath Henderson, Kathak dancer Farah Yasmeen Shaikh and bounce master Ricky B at the Virginia Traditions Stage in the Richmond Times-Dispatch Folklife Area.
Lynne and Roy Seward appreciate how much there is to see at the festival.
“I plan it out every year, and you still can’t see everything,” she said.
“It’s a lot like birding,” Roy Seward said. “You’ll hear a lot of music that you might not see. It’s all around you.”
The festival is free, but organizers ask that attendees make a “drop in the bucket,” or a donation in the bins they have placed throughout the venue.
The 14th Richmond Folk Festival kicked off Friday night at the Altria Stage. An estimated 200,000 people will attend the three-day festival.
A zydeco dance lesson was offered Friday at the Dominion Energy Dance Pavilion during the Richmond Folk Festival.
Gospel singer Cora Harvey Armstrong was the opening act of the festival, which continues Saturday and Sunday.