UNCG Campus Weekly

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Join the parade on ‘Spartan Way’ at National Folk Festival

photo of Folk_FestivalGet ready to paint the town blue and gold when Davie Street in downtown Greensboro is transformed by Spartan pride for this weekend’s National Folk Festival Sept 8-10.

On Sept. 1, Greensboro Mayor Pro Tem Yvonne Johnson officially proclaimed the city street “Spartan Way” in honor of UNCG’s 125th anniversary.

The street will be one of the main thoroughfares of the free outdoor festival featuring seven stages and 300 traditional performers and craftspeople and expected to draw crowds of over 100,000 to the Gate City’s vibrant Elm Street district.

The traveling festival will end its three-year run in Greensboro this year before heading to Maryland in 2018. The festival, produced by the National Council for the Traditional Arts and this year in partnership with Arts Greensboro, was first presented in St. Louis in 1934 and is the oldest multicultural festival of traditional arts in the nation. It is always free of charge and spans three days celebrating the roots, richness and variety of American culture. The three-year stay in each host city is intended to lay the groundwork for a sustainable, locally produced festival that continues after it moves on.

Dr. Gavin Douglas, associate professor of music (ethnomusicology) at UNCG, initially lobbied for the festival’s visit in Greensboro five years ago.

“This place was a community already that to some degree celebrated diversity – I think there’s a resonance there with UNCG’s mission that piggybacks on that,” he said. “UNCG is also pushing globalization and highlighting global awareness in the campus community.”

Douglas said performers like the eclectic jazz ensemble Sun Ra Arkestra, the Brooklyn-based Moroccan sextet Innov Gnawa, the classic Ethiojazz creation Feedel Band from Washington, DC, Staten Island’s Sri Lankan Dance Academy of NY and the Bulgarian Wedding Music of saxophonist Yuri Yunakov are some of the acts not to be missed.

Douglas, who served on the planning committee for the festival, said the group had a fairly loose definition of what counts as folk, which typically tends to be defined as acoustic, mountain or rural. The committee’s definition was more inclusive and focused on grassroots and community-maintained traditions.

And then there’s the argument of whether or not these acts are American, Douglas added.

“It’s absolutely global, but it’s absolutely American,” he said.

Performances on Center City Park, City Stage and LeBauer Park stages will be visible along Spartan Way, which will host food and drink vendors and LimeBike parking.

UNCG’s pep band, the Bands of Sparta, will entertain crowds as student ambassadors greet visitors. The NanoBus will be parked on site, as well as an art truck and SELF Design Studio with hands-on activities including 3D printers and robotics. The Bryan School of Business will gather data to assess the festival’s economic impact on the region.

Friday evening, UNCG athletes, cheerleaders, the dance team, Spiro and Chancellor Gilliam help kick off the festival by joining the New Orleans-style opening paradeled by the Tremé Brass Band at 6:30 p.m.

UNCG is still in need of volunteers to set up, hand out giveaways and collect data during the festival. Visit https://tinyurl.com/UNCG-NFF to sign up.

“It’s quite an amazing operation to have 3,000 volunteers from the community that make this work,” Douglas said.

For a full schedule of performances and information about the National Folk Festival, visit nationalfolkfestival.com.

Story by Elizabeth L. Harrison
Photography courtesy of the National Folk Festival