Kent State’s Folk Festival

Brittany Thoma

Nine days of magical music should enchant local listeners

Asleep at the Wheel played songs such as “Ain’t Misbehavin”, “Mele Kalikimaka” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” at Kent Stage last year. Leslie L. Cusano | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: Ron Soltys

Folk Festival Schedule

Thursday, November 8

Melanie, with Steve Forbert

Kent Stage 8 p.m.

Friday, November 9

A Salute to the Folk Years: Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks

Kent Stage 8 p.m.

Sunday, November 11

Bluegrass Night: Mountain Heart, with Tim O’Brien

Kent Stage 7 p.m.

Wednesday, November 14

Honky Tonk Night: Wayne “The Train” Hancock, Joey

Allcorn with Don Helms

Kent Stage 8 p.m.

Thursday, November 15

Jam Bands: Blue Sky Mission Club, with People of Earth

Kent Stage 8 p.m.

Saturday, November 17

Free Community Workshops

Student Center, 3rd floor Noon – 5 p.m.

Dr. John, David Bromberg and the Angel Band

Kent Student Center Ballroom

7:30 p.m.


The sound of banjos, three-part harmonies and old-time music will float through the chilly autumn air of Kent over the next two weekends during the 41st Kent State Folk Festival.

This nine-day cultural tradition, produced by 89.7 WKSU-FM, will feature more music in more venues than ever before.

“The Kent State Folk Festival has experienced a natural evolution,” said Bob Burford, public relations director at WKSU. “It started as two big concerts and now occupies two weeks in November.”

Burford said this year’s festival will draw a crowd anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000.

Woodstock performer Melanie will kick off the festival tonight and living folk legend Dr. John with David Bromberg will wrap it up Nov. 17.

The folk festival tradition originated as a completely student-driven event in 1968. In its early stages, the folk festival was put on twice in one year. Burford said the students also tried the folk festival outdoors. They held it in February, then took it outside in September. These are considered two of the 41 festivals.

“Although this is the 41st folk festival, it is not the 41st annual festival,” he said.

In 2000, WKSU was asked to take over the event because of the decline in student-interest.

Melanie, Dr. John and some other main-stage acts include Wayne “The Train” Hancock, Mountain Heart and Blue Sky Mission Club. The Nov. 10 Rosanne Cash concert is canceled due to health issues. All tickets are available through Ticketmaster for main-stage performances.

Purchasing tickets is not a must for all the festival events. Folk Alley ‘Round Town offers 14 consecutive hours of free live music in 33 venues Nov. 16. Performances start at noon and go until 2 a.m.

Ryan Humbert, whose band is performing during Folk Alley ‘Round Town, said it’s quite a feat to have 40 bands in one town on one night.

“It’s really cool to see people jumping from bar to bar and venue to venue getting exposure to music you might not hear otherwise,” Humbert said. “It’s going to be a hell of a day for live music around Kent.”

Humbert and his business manager, Cynthia Tuck, are both third-year volunteers for the folk festival. Tuck said she and Humbert volunteer because they believe it’s an incredibly important event.

“It’s a grass roots level of music,” Tuck said. “Some bands are on their way to making it big and some have done it for years. It’s a nice diversity.”

The day after Folk Alley ‘Round Town, some of the folk festival stars are putting on free workshops on the 3rd floor of the Student Center. The workshops will last from noon to 5 p.m. Participants can take banjo and mandolin lessons or hear tips about balancing music with a day job.

Jim Blum, host and producer of weekend folk programming at WKSU-FM, said attending the free workshops at the folk festival in the ’80s launched his whole career.

“When I discovered how good the music was, both quality and fun, I wanted it to be treated with respect,” he said. “My whole angle on it is to present it with class because the music has that class.”

Not only is the folk festival a musical tradition, but Humbert said it also brings people together.

“Playing at an event like this, you look around and it’s college students, it’s baby boomers, young professionals and grandparents,” he said. “No rules apply. As long as you like good music, it doesn’t matter what age or race. Music definitely unites people.”

Contact College of Communication and Information Reporter Brittany Thoma at [email protected].