Sunday, October 14, 2007

Purveyor of "Punch" lines

RICHMOND, Va. (Sunday, October 14) – The “Professor" of Punch delivered a healthy helping of punch lines at the Family Stage this weekend.

Punch has done a very bad thing.
The puppetmaster works the crowd.John Styles, of Kent, England, brought the slapstick comedy of Punch and Judy puppetry to the National Folk Festival this weekend. While the art form, which has been around for several hundred years, has fallen out of fashion in these politically correct times, Styles did an excellent job of recruiting a new generation of fans.

The Family Stage was packed at Styles’s final performance of the weekend. It was not quiet, as young and old loudly reminded Punch, the rather naughty protagonist of the art form, that he was not being any too nice to his fellow characters throughout.

Children react to Punch's antics.
Another appreciative fanIn the process of the mini morality plays, Styles’s comedy delivered a bounty of belly laughs.

“Some say it’s politically incorrect and that we don’t want it,” Styles told the crowd after the performance. “But we do want it, don’t we?”

The crowd roared in agreement.

The Professor of Punch receives his reward.

Masks of enchantment

Ariel & Melissa Inc.\RICHMOND, Va. (Sunday, October 14) – People who come to the festival should not overlook the Virginia Folklife Area and the Ten Thousand Villages Marketplace.

Walking through the area one can learn about how to make musical instruments, such as guitars and steel drums, talk to someone about how to preserve fruits and vegetables, and even buy something to take home.

An assortment of African masksFor example, Arielle & Melissa Inc. of New York offers a vast array of African crafts: clothing and fabrics, jewelry, cosmetics, some foods, such as shea butter, and other specialty items.

The most popular offerings, at least for kids, were the drums and masks.

Which one do I want?

D.L. Menard's farewell

D.L. Menard with Terry Huval and the Jambalaya Cajun BandRICHMOND, Va. (Sunday, October 14) – Today is your last day to catch the National Folk Festival here in Richmond. Performances began at noon. D.L. Menard, with Terry Huval and the Jambalaya Cajun Band, played their last show at the festival at the Ukrop’s/First Market Stage at noon.

The crowd was disappointed when Menard announced their last song of the day, but he offered some comforting words:

“Remember, if we don’t go, we can’t come back.”

D.L. Menard

A little help from a lot of friends

RICHMOND, Va. (Sunday, October 14) – Erika Jurkowski seemed to stand at the festival crossroads Saturday afternoon with little to do.

Erika JurkowskiJurkowski, a student at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond, stood on a path between the Capital One Family Area and the Ukrop’s/First Market Stage, offering National Folk Festival Pocket Guides to passers-by – most of whom already had them.

Ellen Jurkowski finds a taker.But Jurkowski did not mind. She had enough takers to keep the job interesting. She also realized she was helping Richmond put on a great show.

The National Folk Festival could not succeed without volunteers. Lots of them – about 1,000 according to Francesca Parch, volunteer coordinator for the festival.

Volunteers are involved in almost all aspects of the festival: manning information booths, helping as stagehands and stage security, escorting vans carrying performers and staff through the site, helping performers and staff checking in and out of their hotels and assisting them while there, working as artist buddies to help them on site as well as to help make their stay in Richmond more comfortable, and working in bucket brigades that solicit contributions from attendees.

Jurkowski, who was taking Paige Durham-Hayes’s music appreciation class at Reynolds, was encouraged to volunteer as part of her class. Despite the fact that she had relatively few takers for pocket guides, she was having fun – and looking forward to the opportunity to appreciate some of the festival’s musical offerings once here shift was over.

Marie CHardon (left) and Alyssa Connatser work the crowd as part of the bucket brigade.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Dancing for food

A guest of the Junk Yard BandRICHMOND, Va. (Saturday, October 13) – The Junk Yard Band had fans working for food in the Times-Dispatch Dance Pavilion this afternoon.

They had fans – both young and not-so-young – dancing on stage as well as on the floor. They had fans singing. They had fans cheering. And when the fans had earned their meal, they got an enthusiastic helping of "Sardines, Pork and Beans."

Even then, the band urged the fans to sing along, but no one complained. There was hardly a still body in the tent. The D.C.-based band's Go-Go beat had people moving for some distance outside, too.

A guest of the Junk Yard Band

A guest of the Junk Yard Band
A guest of the Junk Yard Band

The Junk Yard Band approves of the crowd's efforts.

Wish you were here

RICHMOND, Va. (Saturday, October 13) – As predicted, the weather has blessed the National Folk Festival. Clear skies and temperatures about 70 as of 2 p.m. provide a pleasant atmosphere for all.

The music today began at noon at all venues and with a variety of musical offerings. Maggie Ingram and The Ingramettes gave a rousing performance at the Ukrop’s/First Market Stages. Moges Seyoum and the Yared Choir opened at the Genworth Financial Stage. The Jerry Grcevich Tamburitza Orchestra was at the Dominion Stage. Melody of China performed at the Comcast Stage, and the Paschall Brothers opened at the NewMarket Stage.

The Holmes Brothers returned to the stage this afternoon – to a full Times-Dispatch Dance Pavilion and an enthusiastic reception from the crowd.


One of the most stressful jobs of the festival is that of WW. WW, who prefers to remain anonymous, is the transportation guru. His job is coordinate the transportation via shuttle of performers and staff between the festival site and the hotels where performers and staff are staying.

WW juggles several walkie-talkies, one radio, several charts and innumerable pieces of paper to get everyone to their scheduled destinations on time. He has to make sure each vehicle is large enough for the personnel and equipment that need to be moved. WW estimates he had 30 schedule shuttle runs Friday, with 60 scheduled for today and 45 on Sunday.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Show goes on (and does well)

RICHMOND, Va. (Friday, October 12) – Despite the cancellation of a performance by the Holmes Brothers because of the sudden illness of Sherman Holmes, Friday night appears to have been a hit among performers and fans.

Sherman Holmes, 68, suffered a severe asthma attack prior to the Holmes Brothers’ appearance as the final act on the Ukrop’s/First Market Stage last night. He was taken to the VCU Hospital for observation, but was in good condition as of the time of this writing.

Elana JamesLisa Sims, festival director, said she thought attendance tonight was double that of last year. She attributed some of the increased attendance to better weather.

“We were blessed with great weather tonight,” Sims said.

Last year, temperatures were quite a bit colder. The first year of the festival, it was raining.

Karan CaseyThe performers enjoyed themselves. For Vishten, an Acadian band from Prince Edward Island, Canada, the night was special. They had performed one set with other musicians in the Virginia Folklife area at the first festival in 2005.

“We’re so happy to be back at this festival. We have great memories of this place,” said Pastelle LeBlanc. “It’s great to be a part of the lineup with other great bands. It’s inspiring as well to have Acadian music share the stage alongside all the other types of folk music.”

White Smith (center) sings for Cindy Cashdollar and Elana James
Cindy CashdollarWhite Smith, guitarist for Western Swing artists Cindy Cashdollar and Elana James, enjoyed the energy of the crowd.

“There was a great vibe going,” Smith said. “If I had shown up with the flu, I would have been cured by the end. There was a lot of positive energy from the crowd.”

D.L. Menard (left)The crowd felt the energy, too. Dancers abounded for D.L. Menard with Terry Huval and the Jambalaya Cajun Band at the Times-Dispatch Dance Pavilion. Hardly a beat was missed when Latin dance outfit Grupo Fantasma followed.

Susie, a young mother, was energetically dancing with her daughter while Grupo Fantasma played. Her husband and another daughter were enjoying another band at the time. She said she was enjoying herself. When asked why, she said, “Music. All the music.”

Dancers at Grupo Fantasma's performanceEven workers enjoyed themselves. Chris Boyd was part of a trio of city workers picking up the area around the Dance Pavilion, with a little extra pep in their step. He said the festival made him feel proud.

“People from all over are coming and enjoying Richmond,” he said.

The music wasn’t the only thing of interest.

Aurora, a visitor from Texas, was busy taking photographs of some of the exhibits at Tredagar as the evening was winding down.

“I’ve never been here before,” she said. “The American history here is fascinating.”

Grupo Fantasma