ALL about… Folk Festival

Zach Wilson

Two-week long festival offers 27 free concerts

Students may not entirely rid their lives of the Top 40 radio playlist that saturates car stereos across the country, but many can expect a good time at the 40th annual Kent State Folk Festival, which kicked off last night with folk singer David Wilcox.

“Hopefully this will get kids to put down their iPods and listen to some real music,” said Kent Stage employee Greg Janik.

Originally a smaller festival, events this year will span over a two week period, with concerts at 29 local venues.

“It started as a student-run event way back when I went to school here, and it’s been going strong ever since,” Janik said. “Kids today need to realize there’s a new thing going on, and they need to check it out.”

Friday there will be 27 free concerts – known as Folk Alley ‘Round Town.

Janik said it’s the perfect opportunity for students to experience a new form of music.

“This is the best music no one has ever heard,” said Charles Bowman, Kent State Folk Festival volunteer. “Music can bring people together, and they come from all over.”

Bowman said he used to check the license plates of cars attending the festival years ago, and was amazed to see people from different counties attending the festival. Now he said different regions of the country are represented.

“People are coming from all over and are coming back to Kent to be a part of the festival,” Bowman said.

Richele Charlton, Kent Stage assistant director, said she hopes Folk Alley ‘Round Town will expose more people to folk music.

“We’ve had huge crowds in the past and expect the same this year,” she said.

“This festival was started by students and pushed out by Student Senate back in 2000,” Bowman said. “So we worked with the city of Kent to bring the festival to downtown.” He said city council funds the festival, with help from Kent State and an ever-growing list of sponsors.

“The festival is great for downtown and the community,” Bowman said. “Events like this and music really bring people together.”

Asleep at the Wheel and Corinne West will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Kent Stage. The Kent Stage, a popular host of folk music from all over the country, will also welcome Donna the Buffalo with Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams Nov. 15 and The Avett Brothers Nov. 16. Kent State students will receive $5 off admission at the door with a university ID.

The Student Center Ballroom will be the site of a performance by Abigail Washburn and The Sparrow Quartet, featuring Ben Sollee, Casey Driessen and Bela Fleck, a world-famous virtuoso banjo player. The performance will begin at 8:30 p.m. Nov. 17 with Bearfoot opening the concert with its own blend of bluegrass.

“We’re trying to educate people about this form of music, too,” Bowman said.

Bowman said the festival offers workshops aimed at educating people about forms of music and art that are not readily available today.

The free workshops will be held from noon to 5 p.m. Nov. 18 in the Student Center and the Kiva for Kent State students and residents of Kent. Events range from mandolin and banjo lessons to recording lessons from The Moondog Recording Company of Kent.

The last day of the festival, Nov. 18, will see Legends of Folk perform at the Student Center Ballroom. Tom Paxton, Odetta and Loudon Wainwright III perform at 8 p.m. before the festival wraps up where it began at the Kent Stage at 11 p.m. with Devil in a Woodpile entertaining the crowds with its unique blend of blues, jazz, country and ragtime.

“Paxton, Odetta and Wainwright are true legends in this form of music,” Bowman said. “Again, this is the best music no one has heard.”

Ticket prices for all performances outside of the Folk Alley ‘Round Town can be found on the Folk Festival’s Web site at

Contact off-campus entertainment reporter Zach Wilson at [email protected].