By Christine Bryant
Thousands will gather at Battelle Darby Creek to celebrate the perfect mix of folk music and Mother Nature.
The Central Ohio Folk Festival will take place May 7 and 8 at the Metro Park, with events kicking off both days at 10 a.m. and running into early evening.
This year’s celebration marks the 20th anniversary of the Columbus Folk Music Society event, which features performances, workshops, a drum circle and special children’s area.
Once a one-day event, the festival has transformed into a two-day event that includes hourly concerts by a wide range of folk musicians who play Appalachian, blues, sea shanties, bluegrass, 1960s protest, Irish, old-timey and other types of folk music. Storytellers also will perform, as well as folk dancers and singer-songwriters.
Bill Cohen, one of the event’s organizers, says visitors should also keep their eye out for informal jamming with musicians playing guitars, banjos, dulcimers, harps, mandolins, fiddles and other folk instruments.
A children’s area will feature songs and stories just for kids, in addition to an arts and crafts tent, and a drum circle planned for 5 p.m. May 7 and 4 p.m. May 8 will allow everyone attending to pound on drums and other rhythm instruments – creating a mesmerizing beat, Cohen says.
Though most of the festival is free, Cohen said visitors may attend workshops for a small cost.
“For a $10 fee, festival-goers can attend any of several dozen educational workshops on Saturday,” he said. “Another $10 fee will pay for another round of workshops on Sunday. Among the workshop topics are song writing, instrument purchasing, home recording and how to play guitar, banjo, autoharp, fiddle, mandolin and penny whistle.”
On May 7, a special concert will take place that will feature Michigan folk duo Mustard’s Retreat as the opening act, and dulcimer player Bing Futch as the featured act. Tickets for the 7 p.m. performance are $10 and may be purchased at the festival.
Originated in 1997, the festival was a joint effort by the Columbus Folk Music Society and the Central Ohio Dulcimer Club. During its first few years, the festival was held over one day at Columbus churches and the Ohio History Center. After it gained popularity, organizers increased the event to two days, and in 2004, moved it to Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.
“Compared to the fans of rock and rap music, the number of folk music fans is small, but I would quickly add that they are dedicated and loyal,” Cohen said.
Dozens regularly attend the Columbus Folk Music Society’s monthly coffeehouse performances, and hundreds attend special concerts presented in Columbus. Last year, more than 4,000 attended the folk festival, he said.
“We often say that folk music is the real music of the people,” Cohen said. “It often tells stories of struggle, whether the songs are about slaves, sailors, prisoners, poor people, migrant farm workers, refugees, minorities, soldiers and others. Folk songs often teach us the history of the Civil War, the Irish potato famine, the Underground Railroad, the Civil Rights movement and more.”
Free parking for the Central Ohio Folk Festival is available at the festival site, located in the Indian Ridge picnic area of the park. Cohen said roadway signs will help direct visitors to the festival site.
For more information, go to columbusfolkmusicsociety.org.