Mu­sic and much more: Rich­mond re­gion gath­ers for 14th Folk Fes­ti­val

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - BY ALI ROCK­ETT

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.

JAMES H. WAL­LACE/TIMES-DIS­PATCH

The 14th Rich­mond Folk Fes­ti­val kicked off Fri­day night at the Al­tria Stage. An es­ti­mated 200,000 peo­ple will at­tend the three-day fes­ti­val.

JAMES H. WAL­LACE/TIMES-DIS­PATCH

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.

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