Brought To You By NSU; Written by David West
The 43rd Annual Natchitoches-NSU Folk Festival will be held on Saturday July 22 in air-conditioned Prather Coliseum located at 220 South Jefferson Street at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches. The festival’s curated showcase of Louisiana folk musicians, food vendors and traditional crafts persons will open at 9 a.m., with live entertainment scheduled from 10 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 at the door for all events, or $6 for an evening pass to all events after 5 p.m. Children 12 and under are admitted free. The family-oriented festival is fully wheelchair accessible.
The festival offers three stages of music, with performances by Mississippi bluesman Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, Rusty Metoyer and the Zydeco Krush, the Jambalaya Cajun Band, Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Revue, the Broussard Family Juré, the Louisiana Czech Heritage Dancers, los Rancheritos de la Sierra, the Cajun Stompers, the Russell Welch Hot Quartet with special guest Aurora Nealand, traditional Native American songs and dances with the Rising Sun Youth Choctaw-Apache of Ebarb Dance Group and a Hank Williams, Sr. tribute by Hugh Harris and the Drifting Cowboys. The festival will also include many food vendors offering traditional Louisiana cuisine. Outdoor activities include demonstrations of traditional blacksmithing and Dutch oven cooking. A child-friendly hands-on demonstration of a 19th century wash day will also be presented.
In honor of this year’s theme, Celebrating Louisiana’s Cultural Gumbo, the festival will see the long-awaited return of the Gumbo Cookoff, in which professionals and hobbyists alike can compete in one of multiple categories and demonstrate their cooking skills. Registration and the Cooks’ Meeting will take place at 8 a.m. Tasting and judging will begin at 12:30 p.m. with winners announced at 2:30 p.m. There is no fee to compete in the cookoff. Gumbo must be cooked on-site outside of Prather Coliseum.
The annual Louisiana State Fiddle Championship will be held at 1 p.m. in the Magale Recital Hall. There will be a non-championship class and a championship class. A twin fiddle category will also be held. Registration is at noon in the first-floor foyer outside Magale Recital Hall. The Fiddle Championship winner will perform on the main stage in Prather Coliseum at 5 p.m.
The festival includes several opportunities for patrons to engage directly with Louisiana folk culture. An interactive workshop titled “Beginning Harmonica” will be held on the East Stage at 12:30 p.m. The workshop will be taught by Ed Huey, a blues and Americana musician who has been recognized as an official Louisiana Tradition Bearer. A certified music teacher, Huey will give an overview of harmonica techniques and teach two beginning-level songs. The first 50 workshop participants will receive a free Hohner harmonica. Festival patrons can also take advantage of free Cajun and zydeco dance lessons taught by the Cajun French Music Association Dance Troupe.
“The festival bridges the distance between artists and the festival patrons, thus breaking the artificial barriers between artists and audience,” said Dr. Shane Rasmussen, director of the festival and NSU’s Louisiana Folklife Center. “Rather than watching from the sidelines, everyone who takes part in these activities will share and engage in Louisiana’s rich culture.”
More than 70 crafts vendors have been invited to display and discuss their traditional work with festival patrons. Craftspeople are expected to display beadwork, baskets, cowhide chair covers, alligator jewelry, Pysanky eggs, Native American crafts and pottery. Other expected craftspeople will display needlework, wood carvings, handmade toys and dolls, paintings, sculpture, homemade soap, spinning and weaving, handcrafted knives, handmade brooms, walking sticks, folk art quilts and more.
KidFest will be available from 9 a.m.to 4 p.m. Kidfest is an area dedicated to child-friendly activities and is a fun way for children to examine their own cultural and family traditions as well as those from around the state.
Narrative sessions will be held in the festival N-Club Room from 10 a.m.to 5 p.m. and will feature presentations on juke joints and dance halls, Creole crafts, Cajun dancing, traditional blacksmithing, folk foods and cookery and Native American dancing, with a music informance on the Delta blues by Holmes. ASL interpretation, assistive listening devices, and audio description for these cultural discussions will be made available upon prior request. For a full schedule of events, as well as registration forms to participate in the Louisiana State Fiddle Championship and the Gumbo Cookoff go to louisianafolklife.nsula.edu or contact the Louisiana Folklife Center at (318) 357-4332 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Support for the festival is provided by grants from the Cane River National Heritage Area, Inc., the City of Natchitoches, the Louisiana Division of the Arts Decentralized Arts Fund Program, the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, the Louisiana Office of Tourism, the Natchitoches Historic District Development Commission, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, the Shreveport Regional Arts Council and the State of Louisiana.
PHOTO ABOVE: Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Revue will be among the musical groups performing at the 43rd Annual Natchitoches-NSU Folk Festival on Saturday July 22 in Prather Coliseum on the Northwestern State University campus in Natchitoches,