Published on: Monday, August 1, 2016 Takoma Park Newsletter

2016 Folk Festival canceled; leaders recruit new crew

By Kevin Adler, former chair of the Takoma Park Folk Festival

The 39th annual Takoma Park Folk Festival was scheduled to be held on Sept. 11, but in July, the Festival’s leaders canceled the event for the first time since its founding in 1978.

The most recent chair, Colleen Clay, whose leadership has brought new energy to the Festival, is leaving the area. The Festival is struggling with a general lack of enough people in the spring and summer to coordinate tasks, such as publicity, volunteer recruitment and food vendors as well as someone to replace Clay.

All the Festival’s leaders have made it clear they hope this will be only a one-year hiatus. However, they warn that the break will be permanent if the community does not produce a sufficient number of organizers in the next few months.

“The message we want to get across is urgency,” said Scott Gilkeson, who has been a Festival committee member for more than a decade. “The Festival has a lot of strengths, but we need more support if we are going to survive.”

To kick off a volunteer recruitment effort, the Festival will be holding an open house at the end of September in the Takoma Park Community Center. Festival leaders are looking for 10 people who will join the existing team to revive the Festival for September 2017. “The volunteer commitment is serious, but it’s less time than you might think,” Gilkeson said.

As part of the outreach for new volunteers, the Festival’s current board encourages newcomers to bring their ideas about what the Festival can be. “This is a chance for people to shape the ‘new’ Takoma Park Folk Festival. Come with your ideas and work with us,” said Walter Mulbry, a veteran of more than 20 Festivals.

New ideas have always been a part of the Festival, said Gina Gaspin, chair of the crafts committee. She brought in food artisans to the crafts show last year for the first time.

The program is always evolving, too, said Judy Oliver, chair of the program committee that selects performers each year. She cited the Grassy Nook Stage as an example. “The Grassy Nook now features teenage performers instead of adults playing kids’ songs. That was an idea brought by a committee member, Marika Partridge, and she’s made it into one of the most popular stages at the Festival,” Oliver said.

“We have a very special event, and it’s unusual with the combination of music, dance, crafts and community tables. The foundation is here for keeping the Festival going. Those of us on the board are ready to work on the Festival for 2017 and also eager to pass what we know on to the next generation of organizers,” Oliver said. For information, visit the Festival’s website at

This article appeared in the August 2016 edition of the Takoma Park Newsletter. The Takoma Park Newsletter is available for download here.