The 39th Annual Natchitoches-NSU Folk Festival will be held on July 20-21 in air conditioned Prather Coliseum located at 220 South Jefferson Street on the Northwestern State University campus in Natchitoches. The Festival will be on Friday, July 20 from 4:30 p.m. until 10:15 p.m. and on Saturday, July 21 from 8 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. The family-oriented festival is wheelchair accessible.
Pictured are the Louisiana Czech Heritage Dancers. Photo by David Holocombe.
Children 12 and under are admitted free. Tickets are $13 for a two-day pass, available in advance only, or $10 at the door for all events on Saturday or $6 for a one-time evening pass to all events after 5 p.m. For advance tickets or more information, call (318) 357-4332, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to louisianafolklife.nsula.edu.
The 2018 Festival theme is Celebrating Louisiana’s Folk Roots. “This year’s theme acknowledges the ways in which so many outstanding artists young and old are tapping into the power and artistry of the old ways, revitalizing and reimagining tradition as they make it their own,” said Dr. Shane Rasmussen, director of the festival and NSU’s Louisiana Folklife Center. “Louisiana’s folkways are not just of the past, but also of the present, and the voices of these artists emerge as a clarion call, reminding us of the vibrancy of traditional culture.”
Friday evening is a dance, featuring free Cajun dance lessons, traditional Cajun music by Donny Broussard and the Louisiana Stars and the Jambalaya Cajun Band, blues with Hardrick Rivers and the Rivers Revue and Celtic music by Smithfield Fair.
The festival offers three stages of music on Saturday with free zydeco dancing lessons, Cajun music by the Choupique Cajun Band and the Huval-Fusilier Trio, zydeco by Joe Hall and the Cane Cutters, blues by Lil’ Buck Sinegal, rockabilly by Jim Oertling, and French Creole la la music by Goldman Thibodeaux and the Lawtell Playboys. There will also be traditional Americana music by Sabra and the Get Rights, a Hank Williams tribute by Hugh Harris and the Drifting Cowboys, a demonstration by the Louisiana Czech Heritage Dancers, and swamp pop by Johnny Earthquake and the Moondogs with special guests James Burton, Estelle Brown and Jo-El Sonnier. Friday and Saturday will also feature acoustic open jam sessions, as well as numerous food vendors. Saturday’s outdoor activities include demonstrations of traditional blacksmithing and black pot cooking.
The Annual Louisiana State Fiddle Championship will also be part of the Festival. The Fiddle Championship will be held July 21 at 1 p.m. in Magale Recital Hall. There will be a non-championship class and a championship class. Registration is at noon in the first floor foyer outside Magale Recital Hall. The Fiddle Championship winner will perform on the main stage in Prather Coliseum at 5 p.m.
The Festival includes several opportunities for patrons to engage directly with Louisiana folk culture. On Saturday, July 21, fiddlers Gina Forsyth, David Greely and Terry Huval will conduct a Cajun fiddler workshop. Participants in this interactive workshop will learn and trade tricks, techniques and theories with these master artists. Participation in the Cajun fiddle workshop will be free for members of the Festival audience.
“The Festival attempts to bridge the distance between artists and the Festival patrons, thus breaking the artificial barriers between artists and audience,” said Rasmussen. “Rather than watching from the sidelines, everyone who takes part in these activities will share and engage in Louisiana’s rich culture.”
Narrative sessions will include programs on the legacy of folk artist Clementine Hunter, traditional crafts such as bousillage and coopering, folk stories and family history, blues music, Cajun music, zydeco music and music informances by John de Chiaro and Smithfield Fair. Saturday will also feature a guitar Q&A with James Burton, and “Memories of the King” with Estelle Brown of the Sweet Sensations and Burton recalling their time performing with Elvis Presley.
More than 70 crafts vendors have been invited to display their traditional work on Saturday and discuss their work with those attending the Festival. Craftspeople are expected to display beadwork, baskets, music instruments, Pysanky eggs and pottery. Other expected craftspeople will display filé making, needlework, wood carvings, handmade toys and dolls, paintings, sculpture, homemade lye soap, spinning & weaving, white oak baskets, master accordion maker, handmade dream catchers, handcrafted knives, handmade wooden furniture, walking sticks, folk art quilts and more.
KidFest will once again be available on Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Kidfest is an area dedicated to child-friendly activities and is a fun way for children to examine their own cultural and family traditions as well as those from around the state.
Support for the Festival is provided by grants from the Cane River National Heritage Area, Inc., the City of Natchitoches, Cleco, the Louisiana Division of the Arts Decentralized Arts Fund Program, the Natchitoches Historic District Development Commission, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and Foundation and the Shreveport Regional Arts Council.