National Folk Festival draws crowds to Greensboro

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Crowds stroll along Davie Street, just past a line of food trucks. The 2017 National Folk Festival was the last time the national festival will be in Greensboro.

Music of all genres floats through the air, accompanied by the smell of foods from all cultures. Native American dancers encourage audiences to join in on the festivities just down the road from an on-stage beatboxing group.

This past weekend, the National Folk Festival in downtown Greensboro celebrated the heritages of many, all in one location. The last year of its three-year stint in Greensboro, NC, the 77th annual National Folk Festival boasted a turnout larger than previous years in Greensboro, with crowds reaching an estimated 160,000 total visitors.

“I saw funky fashion choices, artisan crafts, and a ton of positive energy from the crowds,” senior Emma Uhrlass said.

In an attempt to represent all forms of culture, the National Folk Festival books artists from all backgrounds. The lineup included the Tremé Brass Band, a New Orleans Brass group; a platform to congregate and listen to spoken-word poetry by Josephus III; a stage to watch “B-boy Battle: 2017,” a breakdancing clash complete with a hype-man and DJ; the scope of artists even reached culture from outside the US such as the Ann Yao Trio, a Chinese string ensemble.

“There were many different ethnic backgrounds represented, many of which were wearing their traditional clothing and instruments,” Uhrlass said.

Some students experienced the festival in an entirely different way than others, such as junior Brennan Maynard, who served on staff.

“I volunteered at the Folklife demonstration area,” Maynard said. “My job was to take pictures of people during the meet-and-greets, as well as answer any questions that people or artists had.”

This backstage look provided Maynard with a new perspective on the inner working of the Festival, allowing her to come in close contact with the artists and other professionals that turn events like the Folk Life Festival from an idea to a reality.

“I enjoyed meeting the different artists and watching people’s faces light up as they enjoyed their time at the festival,” Maynard said. “It was a great feeling to know that I helped contribute to such great experiences.”

Out of all these experiences, one key element was present in abundance at the Festival, arguably the most important aspect of a gathering like this for students: food. Dedicating almost an entire block to just food trucks, with many more outcroppings of meals-on-wheels scattered around the city, there was no shortage of access to tasty treats.

“My favorite thing that I saw at the festival was food–there were so many cuisines to try,” Uhrlass said.

This is the last year of the National Folk Festival in Greensboro, NC; it will take place in Salisbury, MD next year. However, there have been talks of replacing the event in NC with a North Carolina Folk Festival, leaving many students crossing their fingers for more.

“I definitely see myself attending future festivals,” Uhrlass said. “Going there and having new experience every time is amazing!”