by Leah Jackson
The 42nd annual Natchitoches-NSU Folk Festival will be held on Saturday July 23 in air-conditioned Prather Coliseum, 220 South Jefferson Street on the campus of Northwestern State University in Natchitoches. The family-oriented Festival, which is wheelchair accessible, will take place from 9 a.m.-10 p.m.
The 2022 Festival theme is “Stronger Together: The Power of Traditional Culture.”
“We are so grateful to once again be able to hold a face-to-face event,” said Dr. Shane Rasmussen, director of the festival and NSU’s Louisiana Folklife Center. “This year’s theme will celebrate the ways in which folk traditions bring people together in positive ways, providing solace, hope, cheer and inspiration. We are truly stronger together than apart.”
Fiddler extraordinaire Amanda Shaw will be honorary chair and headline performer with her band, Amanda Shaw and the Cute Guys. Shaw will be also inducted in the Louisiana Folklife Center Hall of Master Folk Artists.
Said Rasmussen, “It is our honor to recognize Amanda Shaw as an incredibly exciting musician, whose distinctive sound captures the vibrancy of Louisiana’s traditional culture. Louisiana music is alive and well because of artists like Ms. Shaw who inspire others to follow in her steps.”
The festival will offer three stages of music, with free Cajun and zydeco dance lessons taught by the Cajun French Music Association Dance Troupe, Cajun by Amanda Shaw and the Cute Guys, zydeco by The LaCour Trio and Geno Delafose and French Rockin’ Boogie, French Creole la la music by Goldman Thibodeaux and the Lawtell Playboys and dancing to Golden Oldies from the 50’s and 60’s with the popular band Flashback. There will also be traditional Native American songs and dances by the Caddo Culture Club, lion dance performances by the Rising Dragon Lion Dance Team, gospel by Joyful Sounds, a musical tribute to the late blues artist Hardrick Rivers, Celtic music by the Haggis Rampant Celtic Band and the Thistle Dancers and Pipers and a special performance by the Winnsboro Easter Rock Ensemble.
The Festival will also include numerous food vendors offering traditional Louisiana cuisine. Outdoor activities include demonstrations of traditional blacksmithing and black pot cooking. A child friendly hands-on demonstration of a 19th century wash day will also be presented.
The Annual Louisiana State Fiddle Championship will be held at 1 p.m. in Magale Recital Hall. There will be a non-championship class and a championship class. A twin fiddle category will also be held. Registration will begin 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 4:30 p.m.
The Festival includes several opportunities for patrons to engage directly with Louisiana folk culture. Blues artist Ed Huey will conduct beginning and advanced harmonica workshop. Participants in this interactive workshop will learn and trade tricks, techniques and theories with these master artists. A free Hohner harmonica will be given to the first 50 participants in the workshops. Participation in the harmonica workshops will be free for members of the Festival audience.
“The Festival attempts to bridge the distance between artists and the Festival patrons, thus breaking the artificial barriers between artists and audience,” said Rasmussen. “Rather than watching from the sidelines, everyone who takes part in these activities will share and engage in Louisiana’s rich culture.”
Narrative sessions include a presentation on Acadian brown cotton, an introduction to Native American Caddo tradition, and music informances by Amanda Shaw, Geno Delafose and Goldman Thibodeaux.
More than 75 crafts vendors have been invited to display and discuss their traditional work with Festival patrons. Craftspeople are expected to display bead work, 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 once again be available from 9 a.m.-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.
Children 12 and under are admitted free. Tickets are $10 at the door for all events, or $6 for an evening pass to all events after 5 p.m. For more information, call (318) 357-4332, email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to https://www.nsula.edu/folklife/.
ASL interpretation, assistive listening devices and audio description will be made available upon prior request for the cultural discussions in the Festival N-Club Room from 10 a.m.- to 5 p.m. and for the interpretive music informance by the Winnsboro Easter Rock Ensemble from 10:15-11:30 a.m. Please make requests for ASL interpretation, assistive listening devices and audio description for these events by July 1 by contacting email@example.com or (318) 357-4332.
Support for the Festival is provided by grants from the Cane River National Heritage Area, Inc., the Louisiana Division of the Arts, the Natchitoches Area Convention and Tourism Bureau, the Natchitoches Historic District Development Commission, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and Foundation and the Shreveport Regional Arts Council.