Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Folk festival keeps crowds, performers coming back - Gazette

Annual music, community event returns Sept. 14

by Jeremy Arias | Staff Writer | Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2008

Bill Williams is a folk festival regular. A Takoma Park resident for the past 17 years, Williams has either attended or performed in the city's annual music and crafts event, the Takoma Park Folk Festival, since 1999.

"I've seen some very good arts and crafts people selling stuff there, and I like that they've got a lot of stands set up for community service booths," he said. "They've got it pretty well down."

Williams and his newest band, the Jelly Roll Mortals, are one of 50 musical groups or performers that will take the stage Sept. 14 for the 31st annual Takoma Park Folk Festival to be held 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Takoma Park Middle School.

Williams and the Jelly Roll Mortals will perform from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the 7th Heaven stage, mixing well-known covers with their own distinct folk-rock acoustic songs.

The festival also will feature space for 45 arts and craft booths, community service booths and, of course, food vendors of all types. Shuttle buses will run from the Montgomery College parking garage and the Takoma Metro station to the event throughout the day free of charge, and walking routes to the festival will be clearly marked. Admission will be free.

"We're telling people don't park in the neighborhood because there's not enough space," cautioned event spokeswoman Nancy Nickell.

Nickell, who has been working with the festival since 2000, said the event draws about 4,000 attendees each year. As many as 300 volunteers lend a hand the day of the festival, she said.

"We're actually able to put on a very large event with very little money because the labor is all volunteer," Nickell said, adding that it is not too late to volunteer for this year's event. Those interested can visit the festival Web site,

Nickell has a more personal connection with the festival; she credits the event with her decision to move back to Takoma Park after she and her husband passed a house for sale following the 1999 folk fest. They eventually bought the house.

"A neighbor told me a couple months later that, well, if you owe your house to the festival then you should volunteer for the festival!" Nickell said with a laugh. She is not alone among residents who find themselves drawn back to the festival.

Performer Spencer Bates also will return after his debut performance at last year's celebration. Bates, a self-taught pianist and singer, won the festival's prize for local talent last year and will play an hour-long set of his uniquely-interpreted tributes and some of his favorite songs from his two recent albums.

"The folk festival heavily values originality, artistry, nuance, creativity; all that stuff," he said. "At a folk festival, the people are there to experience culture. It's sort of the perfect venue for what I've been looking for."

Bates will perform 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. on the 7th Heaven stage space, and again along with a Bob Dylan tribute group performing later in the festival.

A complete listing of the various performances on the seven stages, food stalls, crafts and entertainment information can be found on the festival's Web site along with volunteer information and directions to the event.

The website is


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