SALISBURY, Md.— Outdoor stages, family entertainment, local art, diverse food and beverages flowing — the National Folk Festival is once again set for downtown Salisbury.
Sept. 10 to 12 will mark the 80th National Folk Festival and the third time the event takes place in Salisbury, Maryland. Organizers hope the in-person celebration taking over downtown will also be a strong sign of the city’s continued recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, which previously delayed the anniversary festival in 2020.
“The 80th National Folk Festival will say that the city is ready to emerge stronger from the pandemic and be a catalyst for the newly completed renovations in our downtown,” wrote Salisbury Mayor Jake Day, who is on active duty with the Maryland National Guard, and acting mayor and City Administrator Julia Glanz in a joint statement Wednesday. “The (festival) has been a major driver of the physical, social and cultural renewal of the city, and we are so pleased to be ‘together again’ this September.”
As organizers made the announcement in a Wednesday news conference at the visitors center, two honorary event co-chairs chimed in from Annapolis.
“The first lady and I are pleased to once again serve as honorary co-chairs for the National Folk Festival in Salisbury, Maryland,” said Gov. Larry Hogan in a news release from the National Folk Festival. “Now more than ever, we recognize the economic and cultural impacts events like the National Folk Festival can have in our communities. As organizers for the festival proceed with planning, we know that a commitment to safety and adherence to local and state ordinances will be crucial.”
Caroline O’Hare, local manager for festival, said the festival is preparing for event participants, supporters and volunteers.
She said the event has been “reconfigured” to ensure the safety of artists, staff and attendees. Her team plans to make periodic updates as event planning continues.
The number of stages will reduce from previous years, now totaling three. Festivals in 2018 and 2019 hosted seven stages each, but organizers are confident the smaller footprint will not sacrifice any entertainment value.
Stages will be in familiar places: outside the Government Office Building, in downtown’s Parking Lot 1 and the grassy, open area near TidalHealth Peninsula Regional hospital. Though some details are still taking shape as health conditions are monitored this summer, the festival plans to adhere to social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines throughout the grounds. Signage, informational videos and staff nembers will likely remind festival goers.
Lora Bottinelli, executive director of the National Council for the Traditional Arts, noted the anniversary festival makes her organization’s production the “nation’s longest-running celebration of the roots, richness and variety of American culture,” having first taken shape in 1934.
And it’s all headed to the heart of Salisbury.
Perdue Farms and TidalHealth both return as festival sponsors, while additional supporters will be announced as they are confirmed, according to organizers. The festival is also seeking private support to match these public investments. The event is supported in part by public funding from the city, the American Rescue Plan, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Maryland State Arts Council.
Using Wi-Fi mesh networks and data science, the city estimated Salisbury’s festival brought about 153,911 people out over the course of the 2019 weekend — more than doubling the 2018 attendance of 63,000.
In 2019, the free festival took place in much of downtown Salisbury, between Routes 13 and 50, and Carroll Street and the Wicomico River. Over 25 food and drink vendors were stationed throughout the festival area.
Though this September will mark the last National Folk Festival that Salisbury will host, the city will keep an annual festival going.
Organizers plan to announce festival performers and other details of the event later this spring and into the summer, alongside further safety guidance.
“The support for this festival is there,” O’Hare said to the group. “It’s growing.”