40th Annual Natchitoches-NSU Folk Festival set for July 26-27

The 40th Annual Natchitoches-NSU Folk Festival will be held on July 26-27in air-conditioned Prather Coliseum located at 220 South Jefferson Street at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches. The Festival will be on Friday July 26 from 4:30 p.m. until 10:00 p.m and all day on Saturday July 27 from 8 a.m until 10:30 p.m. The family-oriented festival is wheelchair accessible. The Southeast Tourism Society (STS) has named the Natchitoches-NSU Folk Festival as one of the STS Top 20 Events in the Southeast for July 2019. The 2019 Festival theme is Vive la Louisiane!

“This year’s theme acknowledges the ways in which so many outstanding artists young and old are tapping into the power and artistry of the old ways, revitalizing and reimagining tradition as they make it their own,” said Dr. Shane Rasmussen, director of the festival and NSU’s Louisiana Folklife Center.

Blues guitarist and singer Tab Benoit is the honorary chair of the festival and will be the headline performer on Saturday evening. Benoit will be also inducted in the Louisiana Folklife Center Hall of Master Folk Artists.

“It is our honor to recognize Tab Benoit as an incredibly exciting musician, whose distinctive sound captures the vibrancy of Louisiana’s traditional culture,” said Rasmussen. “Louisiana music is alive and well because of artists like Mr. Benoit who inspire others to follow in his steps.”

Friday evening features a dance, with free Cajun dance lessons, traditional Cajun music by the Bruce Daigrepont Cajun Band, classic country with Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Revue, folk music by Ed Huey, blues by Cane Mutiny, gospel music by Joyful Sounds and world music by 50 Man Machine.

The festival offers three stages of music on Saturday, with free Cajun, line and zydeco dance lessons, blues music by Benoit, Cajun music by Jamie Berzas and the Cajun Tradition Band and the Bruce Daigrepont Cajun Band, zydeco by Wayne and Same Ol’ 2 Step, and French Creole la la music by Goldman Thibodeaux and the Lawtell Playboys. There will also be bluegrass by the Stewart Family Bluegrass Band, Native American dances by the Canneci N’de Band of Lipan Apache, a Jerry Lee Lewis tribute by Brandy Roberts, traditional Americana music by The Rayo Brothers, Celtic music by the Kitchen Session of Baton Rouge and a special performance by the Louisiane Vintage Dancers. Friday and Saturday will also feature acoustic open jam sessions, as well as numerous food vendors. Saturday’s outdoor activities include demonstrations of traditional blacksmithing, black pot cooking, flint knapping and the use of Southern stock dogs. A child friendly hands-on demonstration of a 19th century wash day will also be presented.

The Annual Louisiana State Fiddle Championship will also be part of the Festival. The Fiddle Championship will be held July 27 at 1 p.m. in Magale Recital Hall. There will be a non-championship class and a championship class. A twin fiddle category will also be held. Registration is at noon in the first-floor foyer outside Magale Recital Hall. The Fiddle Championship winner will perform on the main stage in Prather Coliseum at 4:30 p.m.

The Festival includes several opportunities for patrons to engage directly with Louisiana folk culture. On Saturday July 27, Berzas and Daigrepont will conduct a Cajun accordion workshop. Participants in this interactive workshop will learn and trade tricks, techniques and theories with these master artists. Participation in the Cajun accordion workshop will be free for members of the Festival audience.

“The Festival attempts to bridge the distance between artists and the Festival patrons, thus breaking the artificial barriers between artists and audience,” said Rasmussen. “Rather than watching from the sidelines, everyone who takes part in these activities will share and engage in Louisiana’s rich culture.”

Narrative sessions on Saturday will include John Wilson performing Louisiana tall tales, members of the Louisiane Vintage Dancers discussing 19th century fashion in Louisiana, an introduction to Native American Choctaw traditions, and music informances by Holiday and the Rayo Brothers. In addition, Benoit will discuss his life bringing the Delta blues to audiences throughout the world, and will also explain the work of his foundation, The Voice of the Wetlands.

More than 70 crafts vendors have been invited to display their traditional work on Saturday and discuss their work with those attending the Festival. Craftspeople are expected to display beadwork, baskets, cowhide chair covers, alligator jewelry, Pysanky eggs, Native American crafts and pottery. Other expected craftspeople will display filé making, needlework, wood carvings, handmade toys and dolls, paintings, sculpture, homemade lye soap, spinning & weaving, handcrafted knives, handmade brooms, walking sticks, folk art quilts and more.

KidFest will once again be available on Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Kidfest is an area dedicated to child-friendly activities and is a fun way for children to examine their own cultural and family traditions as well as those from around the state.

Children 12 and under are admitted free. Tickets are $13 for a two-day pass, available in advance only, or $10 at the door for all events on Saturday, or $6 for a one-time evening pass to all events after 5 p.m. For advance tickets or more information, call (318) 357-4332 or email folklife@nsula.edu

Support for the Festival is provided by grants from the Cane River National Heritage Area, Inc., the City of Natchitoches, the Louisiana Division of the Arts Decentralized Arts Fund Program, the Louisiana Office of Tourism, the Natchitoches Historic District Development Commission, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation and the Shreveport Regional Arts Council.