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The North Georgia Folk Festival Returns

As the North Georgia Folk Festival approaches, director Tommy Jordan has had to consider how to improve on a formula that has already proven successful. The annual festival has become a longstanding fall tradition, and this will be its 29th year.

“There are people who started coming when they were kids,” says Jordan. “And now they’re bringing their kids.”

The festival takes place this Saturday at Sandy Creek Park. Gates open at 10:30 a.m., and music will begin at 11:30 with a performance by the Athens Montessori School Ukulele Club—the festival’s youngest budding bluegrass artists—and Wooten’s Woopets, life-size puppets to be enjoyed by children and grownups alike. A tent will be set up for the entirety of the day where teachers from the Athens Montessori School will tend to children to allow parents to enjoy the music. There will also be a nearby playground and various art activities for kids to take part in.

While the festival will largely resemble those of years past, it will also include many new faces.

“Every year I try to mix it up a lot,” says Jordan. “It allows me to reach out.”

The musical lineup includes Roy Tench, an old-time fiddler from Habersham County, who will be accompanied by local artist and Grammy Award winner Art Rosenbaum on banjo. Local favorites the Solstice Sisters will be followed by the down-home blues-folk of the Darnell Boys and bluegrass from the Borderhop Five.

The Rosin Sisters will sing tight harmonies and play triple fiddles along with guitar and banjo. Emerald Road, an Irish folk-dance band, will grace the stage just before headliner, John McCutcheon, an internationally renowned storyteller, songwriter, singer and multi-instrumentalist. String Theory will close out the evening with the high-energy, danceable old time tunes the band is known for.

“It’s not going to be a dance,” says Jordan, who is also a member of String Theory. “But I sure hope that dancing erupts.”

Other musicians are welcomed to bring instruments and make their own music in a dedicated “jam tent” that will be set up on the back of the field all day.

Festival-goers will also have the opportunity for a hands-on celebration of folk art. Demonstrations will be given from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m., showing the making of various folk crafts. Artist and illustrator Peter Loose, whose paintings will adorn the stage, will teach a painting class for children, and kids who join in will even get to keep their work. The Cotton Patch Quilters will return to the festival to showcase their handmade quilts and to lead quilting activities for interested children. David Van Wyk and Luke Snyder of Bloodroot Blades will demonstrate blacksmithing.

Additional demonstrations include traditional sweetgrass basket making by Rebecca Gilliard and broom making with Rosa Hall. Brenda McKaig will hand spin wool from her own flock of sheep. Silversmith Jim Richardson will demonstrate the forging of silver into jewelry, and the Classic City Woodturners will be showing how wood turning is done on a lathe. Local fixture Cap Man will also be there with his bottle-cap truck and artwork.

The festival will feature artists and vendors selling corn shuck dolls, jewelry, pottery, glass, wood carvings, gourd art, knitted and crocheted wool, nature photography, soap, granola, beeswax candles and paintings.

And of course, over the long day of folk music and art, festival attendees won’t be asked to go hungry.

“There’s a variety of food, and it’s all delicious,” says Jordan. “People are welcome to bring a picnic, but they don’t have to.”

People are also encouraged to bring chairs or a blanket to sprawl out during what is sure to be a beautiful October day. 

“I think it will be a nice day of music, and a good day of art,” says Jordan. “And we just hope for good weather.”

WHAT: 2013 North Georgia Folk Festival
WHERE: Sandy Creek Park
WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 5, 10:30 a.m.–9 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $12 (adults), $7 (students), FREE! (children under 12)