KSU Folk Festival to celebrate 40 years

Kristen Russo

Singer/Songwriter David Wilcox will kick off the 40th annual Kent State Folk Festival at 8 tonight at the Kent Stage. PHOTO COURTESY OF Rebecca Wilson

Credit: Steve Schirra

Hey diddle, diddle, these cats can really play their fiddles.

The 40th Annual Kent State Folk Festival will feature more than 50 musicians with styles ranging from traditional folk to roots rock to Celtic.

The festival, produced by 89.7 WKSU-FM, begins at 8 p.m. tonight with a performance by David Wilcox at the Kent Stage and ends Nov. 18 with the Legends of Folk concert featuring Loudon Wainwright III, Odetta and Tom Paxton at 8 p.m. in the Student Center Ballroom and Devil in a Woodpile at 11 p.m. at the Kent Stage.

Wilcox, who grew up in Northeast Ohio, said he is looking forward to playing at the festival.

“I love being the opener because I love how music does open our hearts,” Wilcox said. “And I love the idea of being the first one to ask people to expect a lot from the music.”

In addition to the opening and closing acts, the festival also features Asleep at the Wheel, The Avett Brothers, Abigail Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet and Donna the Buffalo as main-stage acts.

Jim Blum, host and producer of WKSU-FM’s weekend folk program, said the Sparrow Quartet concert on Nov. 17 will be broadcast live, and later on-demand, at folkalley.com and kentstatefolkfestival.org. Members of the quartet are Abigail Washburn, Ben Sollee, Casey Driessen and Bela Fleck. Bearfoot will open the Sparrow Quartet show, which begins at 8:30 p.m. in the Student Center Ballroom.

All main-stage acts require tickets, but Friday the festival offers Folk Alley ‘Round Town, which is a day of free folk music at 27 venues around the city.

Bob Burford, WKSU-FM’s marketing coordinator, said Folk Alley venues that normally have a cover charge are waiving it for the night.

“One of the goals of Folk Alley ‘Round Town is to make Kent a destination,” Burford said. “It’s good for economic development, and it’s cool to see people having that much fun.”

On Nov. 18, the festival will offer free workshops in the Student Center from noon to 5 p.m. Blum said the workshops are question-and-answer sessions where musicians play and talk about music with the audience.

There will also be a talent show after the workshops, and Blum said the winner will open the Legends of Folk concert that night.

For WKSU-FM, the festival offers a way to showcase a broad range of folk music through live performances – right in its own backyard.

“The Kent area has a strong tradition of being supportive of folk and traditional music,” Burford said. “We’ve sort of built on that.”

For a complete list of Folk Alley ‘Round Town musicians and venues, and for other festival information, visit www.kentstatefolkfestival.org.

Contact College of Communication and Information reporter Kristen Russo at [email protected].