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By ALLISON GUY
What do blues music, cooking demonstrations, wood-carving and beatboxing have in common? All were found at the 78th National Folk Festival in Salisbury this past weekend. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the city welcomed thousands of visitors, all taking in the sights, sounds and smells of traditional American folklife.
The activities at the three-day event were numerous, including various types of dance performances, music genres from reggae to fiddling, storytelling, puppetry, craft demonstrations and more—not to mention the many food and craft vendors sprinkled throughout the venue.
Beneath the melodies of blues music and the steady beating of percussion groups’ drums, there was a louder hum: one of shared traditions and learning about the past.
Though the National Folk Festival was undoubtedly a unique event for Salisbury residents to attend, it offered an entertaining and educationally enriching experience for Salisbury University students in particular.
Instead of studying or writing papers, this education simply required students to open their eyes and ears to absorb all that was around them.
The festival caused students to encounter and reflect upon a variety of art forms that they are not typically exposed to in their daily lives.
These unique art forms stood out to students such as festival worker and attendee Josh Young, a graduate student, who noted a performance that combined two traditionally separate art genres.
His favorite act of the festival was “a tap dancer tap-dancing to hip-hop … creating a beat.” Said Young, “It was pretty cool.”
Other performances were less traditional and informal, but interesting nonetheless. Steven Seiler, senior at SU and Salisbury native, attended and worked at the event.
“We [a friend and I] saw someone do a front flip over, like, eight people, wearing a Superman costume,” said Seiler. “It’s been really impressive.”
The event also allowed SU students to see the city they call home in a new light.
In the words of Seiler, “I’ve grown up in Salisbury, so I’ve never seen it this crowded, or this many people here gathered up in one place. The music is amazing, there’s a lot of talented art and just creative people everywhere,” said Seiler. “It’s been incredible to be able to experience this.”
In addition to attending the Folk Festival, many students also volunteered at it. Some were artist hosts, getting to meet firsthand the performers at the festival, while others worked at vending stands or walked around with donation buckets. These students were able to gain insight into the administrative workings of the festival, rather than just the culture it represented.
Though the Folk Festival lasted only three short days, it provided a wealth of learning opportunities for students, exposing them to ways of life they may not have been familiar with.
The only major downside to the weekend was the rainy, overcast weather. Scattered thunderstorms and dark clouds threatened the festival, but the attendees did not let it stop them from showing up in large numbers.
The Salisbury Police Department reported minimal conflicts with police and only two people experienced injuries related to heat exhaustion.
Salisbury is hosting the Folk Festival through 2020 and they plan to make adjustments to the layout and performers. Mayor Day hopes to tweak the signs, parking and general layout of the festival to ensure the safety of all.
Attendance is expected to double in the coming years, and the festival will hopefully continue to educate Salisbury residents and students through different cultural acts.