The Unofficial Guide to the 2015 Richmond Folk Festival 

What to hear and how to wander at the city's largest music festival.

click to enlarge feat40_folk_crowds.jpg

Scott Elmquist

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The last two years have been wet ones for the Richmond Folk Fest.

Of course that didn’t keep everyone away. It just meant the large, diverse crowds of people socializing, listening to music they normally wouldn’t and loving it, and enjoying food and drinks by the river weren’t quite as huge.

The spate of bad weather also meant that the bucket-brigade volunteers collecting donations didn’t see quite as much activity, which can affect the number and quality of performers the following year. So if you want to see the festival remain one of the jewels on the national circuit, and free, make sure you give every day you’re there.

As for the skies, forecasts for the 11th annual Folk Fest look better than last weekend’s deluge, with a chance of rain Friday night and the rest of the weekend partly cloudy.

But there’s more to planning than whether you’ll bring an umbrella. There are three days of multiple stages and a full schedule of music to navigate.

On the following pages you’ll find the stories behind some of the acts we’re most enthusiastic about. It’s worth noting that there’s a lot more going on at this family-friendly event. Like the traditional Bolivian parade scheduled to happen Saturday around 6:30 p.m. Or that kids can get a rare taste of Disney World’s Epcot Center with Masaji Candyman, a traditional candy sculptor from Japan said to be the only known person practicing this art in the country.

Another story line to watch for this weekend: This was the year Richmond lost its gospel queen, Maggie Ingram, the matriarch of the Ingramettes who have performed regularly at the festival. Daughter Meta Miller says it will be “bittersweet,” but the family will be carrying on as performers and when Zion’s Voice takes the stage Sunday.

The theme of this year’s Folklife Area is Youth Will Be Served, which will include a performance by young local soul and R&B artist Anhayla, 27, who started the popular Girls Night Out event to encourage self-esteem in young women. There’s also Presley Barker, an 11-year-old guitar prodigy who’s already winning adult competitions in Galax. And there’s a youth banjo competition, the Scott Street Five String Finals, to honor the life of former Williams Mullen lawyer Scott Street. The huge banjo enthusiast, who died in February, was a friend to many musicians.

“He did a lot of pro bono work for musicians who couldn’t afford legal help and he was very humble and quiet about it,” says Tim Timberlake of Jam Inc. “We wanted to do something meaningful to honor his legacy. The great [bluegrass musician] Sammy Shelor is coming from Meadows of Dan to judge this contest. We have Harold Mitchell, the longtime emcee at Galax Fiddler’s Convention, to introduce the contestants. Scott’s family will be there and it will be very sweet and emotional.”

Whatever happens, expect sunshine somewhere along the way. — Brent Baldwin



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