Central Ohio Folk Festival to celebrate 25th anniversary


It took 26 years, a year off for a global pandemic and a virtual festival, but the Central Ohio Folk Festival will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2022.

The festival will take place May 7 and 8 at Highbanks Metro Park, 9466 Columbus Pike at Lewis Center.

Festival organizers are planning a busy weekend of concerts and activities as the event returns to in-person status for the first time since 2019.

“Last year being able to hold our event online meant people from all over the world could participate, but it just didn’t have the spirit of being together in person and people were singing together,” said festival member Bill Cohen. “There’s a great sense of community when people make folk music together.”

“Our artists are really excited to be back performing live for people again,” said festival director Diane Boston. “It’s just not the same without the live experience for the audience or the performer.”

Three stages will host more than 30 concerts over the two-day festival, Cohen said, featuring artists playing a variety of styles, including 60s folk revival, bluegrass, Americana, Scottish traditional and others. Headliner The Way Down Wanderers from Illinois will perform at 7 p.m. on May 7.

The program also includes a storytelling session featuring Native American musician and storyteller Alexa Dawson and a roster of local storytellers. A special children’s area with arts and crafts as well as an “instrument petting zoo” for children to handle folk instruments will be featured. The festival mascot, Darby Duck, will also be present.

A host of workshops are also planned, ranging from practicing various instruments and songwriting to organizing a house concert and using folk music as an agent of social change.

“A lot of these workshops are beginner-friendly,” Boston said. “Whether someone is interested in learning more about a particular instrument, for example, we are ready to meet them even if they have little or no experience.”

The heart of the festival is attendance, Cohen said, so if you play a musical instrument, plan to bring it with you, although the festival will have some to share as well. Jam sessions in a variety of musical styles will take place and the festival will open with a mass of folk songs from the 60s.

Baba Jubal Harris, an Ohio-based musician and educator, will lead two drumming circles, one per day, open to anyone in attendance. Harris will have a few instruments available.

“It’s a fascinating experience,” Cohen said of the drum circle.

For the first time, the festival will include a beer garden tent, where attendees aged 21 and over can purchase craft beer.

Although past festivals have featured paid admission to the main concert and fees for the various workshops, this year’s event will accept donations when patrons enter the grounds, Cohen said, and all activities at the inside the festival are free. Donations will help ensure the festival continues for years to come, Cohen said.

The festival is produced by the Columbus Folk Music Society and is run entirely by volunteers.

Festival times are listed from 10:30 a.m. on May 7 to 5:30 p.m. on May 8.

For more information, visit columbusfolkmusicsociety.org.

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