Performers from around the world converge on Fall Folk Festival

THURSDAY, OCT. 29, 2009

Every year, dozens of performers stream in to the Spokane Fall Folk Festival from California, Montana, British Columbia and, of course, Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

Yet they represent farther-ranging folk traditions: The Andes, the Scottish Highlands, Argentina, Japan, Australia, Hawaii, North Africa, Ireland and China.

Here’s how eclectic this Spokane Folklore Society event has become: This year you can choose between two groups playing Zimbabwean music.

The Spokane Fall Folk Festival is one of the most global of the region’s arts events, as well as one of the biggest success stories.

The festival began modestly in 1996 with attendance of about 350 and has grown steadily into a two-day, 40-act event on multiple stages. About 7,500 people are expected to attend this year.

As global as the festival has become, it also has an intensely local flavor. Many of these folk traditions grow directly out of our own ponderosa pine forests, bunchgrass prairies, sagebrush flats and big rivers.

Here are just a few examples:

• Brownhawk – Native American flute, drum and dance.

• Western Reunion – cowboy songs and Western swing.

• Hank Cramer – songs of miners, cowboys and sailors.

• The Crab Creek Wranglers – cowboy and bluegrass.

• Last of the Gro-Vonte (Daryl Shortman) – Montana Plains Indian flute music.

And there are dozens of bluegrass, folk, folkabilly, hillbilly, blues, old-timey, jug band and Americana roots acts on the schedule. For a complete schedule of what’s happening on every stage, go to www.spokanefolklore.org.

And, as always, the event is free. That’s because of generous sponsors and dozens of volunteers.

“We don’t pay anybody – everybody volunteers their time, even the performers,” said Claudia Craven, the festival’s publicity volunteer. “That’s how we manage to keep it free.”

The festival is not only musical. This year, the kids’ activities will have a spooky theme, since the first day of the festival takes place on Halloween. The numerous storytellers will put an emphasis on the eerie.

Several of the venues in the Lair will be devoted to dance and dance workshops. You can learn styles ranging from English country dances to square dance, to belly dance, to Palestinian debke dance, to Highland dancing to Polynesian dancing.

A contra dance will close the festival on both days. On Saturday from 8 to 10:30 p.m., the dance will feature Out of the Woods with callers Nora Scott and Ray Polhemus. On Sunday from 3 to 5 p.m., it will feature the Bridgewater Boys with Mitchell Frey.

The tradition of the KPBX-FM (91.1) simulcast continues this year, with a live broadcast on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. from the Lair Auditorium.

The show will be emceed by Carlos Alden and Verne Windham and will feature organist Jim Tevenan, poet Kenn Nesbitt and eight festival acts.

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