Ohio River Valley Folk Festival

Madison's newest festival to celebrate
area's river history, folk traditions

Riverfront event was conceived by the late Garrett

By Konnie McCollum
Contributing Writer

2006 May Indiana Edition Cover

2006 May Indiana
Edition Cover

(May 2006) – Jeff Garrett, the man behind the Madison Ribberfest and other local events, conceived the idea of creating a new festival to be held sometime in early spring that would celebrate the area’s unique river heritage. He envisioned an event that would celebrate folk life and introduce folk music to the area’s residents.
But when Garrett died on Oct. 30, 2005, the mission fell to others to carry out the project.
Steve Thomas of Thomas Family Winery and John Walburn, a Hanover, Ind., resident, accepted the task of co-chairing the event. The two men, along with Linda Lytle, executive director of Madison’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, have worked feverishly over the past few months to finish what Garrett had started.
Thanks to all the hard work and devotion of those involved, plus the financial backing from several key sponsors, the City of Madison will present the inaugural Ohio River Valley Folk Festival on May 19-20 along the riverfront between West and Poplar Streets. The festival celebrates the beauty of Americana, combining traditional folk music, folk art and storytelling for fun and education, organizers say.

Click here to learn about
the musicians who will
be playing at the
Folk Festival.

Marc Gray's Cruisin Auto, based in Madison, is the title sponsor. Other sponsors include Demaree Automotive Group, Quarry Bluff, Super 8 Motel, Rivertown Chiropractic and Rivers Institute at Hanover College.
The festival's music stage will be located at Central Street and Vaughn Drive, and the "Tall Tales Storytelling Stage" will be located in the gazebo at Lamplighter Park. Vendors will be located along Vaughn Drive between West and Poplar. Folk artists will be in the parking lot between Poplar and Central.

Folk Festival Logo

Ohio River Valley Folk Festival Presented by Cruisin' Auto
May 19-20 on the Madison, Ind., rivefront
Featuring: Traditional folk music, storytelling, folk art village, "Lil' Fols Area," traditional foods, regional breweries and wineries.
Admission wristbands: $10 through May 10 (includes $5 in food and beverage coupons). After May 10 and at the gate tickets $10 (no coupons).
Tickets available at the Madison Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, 601 W. First St., Madison. (812) 265-2956 or 1-800-559-2956.
Website: www.ohiorivervalleyfolkfestival.com or www.visitmadison.org
Music Schedule:
Friday, May 19
The River Newts
Tom Roznowski
Roger McGuinn
Saturday, May 20
Megan King
John Franz
Steve Mayone
Tarbox Ramblers
Lucy Kaplansky
Todd Snider
Tommy Makem

Walburn said festival organizers choose this particular time of the year to hold the event because they thought it would balance out the festival season. Thomas agreed, adding there was a hole to fill at this particular time, and city officials were supportive of the addition of another major festival in Madison.
Lytle said her office became the umbrella organization for the festival because of the positive impact such a project would have on the tourism industry and the economy of the area. She said that any time people are drawn to Madison, they come back.
Walburn said festival planners hope the new folk festival will become self-sustaining, like the highly successful Ribberfest. He said officials plan to continue to provide top quality acts for a high-quality festival in order to help tourism and promote our culture and economy. Thomas said much of the infrastructure and experience with Ribberfest was used in the development of the Ohio Valley Folk Festival.
Festival organizers said Garrett decided that a festival which celebrated heritage would only compliment the area’s other attractions. Thomas said Garret thought a folk festival would help update the river heritage and be a unique way to reflect the area’s culture. The highlight of the festival is an impressive list of some of the best folk musicians in the nation.
Walburn, who chaired the music committee before becoming the co-chair with Thomas, said that folk music is simply music of the people. He said that it has always been a means of communication, a way to tell stories and relay news. Those messages of historical times then became ballads and eventually formed the traditional base of folk music. Thomas added that folk music is just a person with an instrument or a voice telling a story that can be educational and reflective of culture.
Committee members agreed that a variety of folk musicians, both traditional and modern, would be needed to round out the festival’s program. There will be performers of traditional folk music as well as contemporary acts. There will also be musicians who will present original works and those who will do interpretations of older songs that have been around for generations. There will be Celtic, French and English heritage tunes, along with music with southern roots. Most people will be pleasantly surprised to find they know many of the songs that will be performed by the different artists at the festival. Walburn said that many people will be familiar with the local, regional and national performers.
The music committee came up with lots of ideas at the start for the festival. Working with Walburn were Mark Johnson, a Hanover College graduate now residing in Indianapolis; Roxy Chapa Kelly of Cincinnati; and Tony Schroeder of Madison. They looked to their own experiences with folk music to come up with a list of potential musicians, Walburn said. They contacted various artists and finally narrowed down the list. For such a small group, the committee worked up a remarkable lineup of musical talent for the festival.
In addition to the notable list of musicians at the festival, there will be an outstanding array of storytellers and folk artists. Walburn described folk art as things, or crafts, that people learn, such as pottery and weaving. There will be a variety of folk art craftsman, including a weaver actually working, and a high quality dulcimer maker.
There will also be an interactive presentation for children by the Hanover College Rivers Institute that will focus on the heritage of river communities. It will include activities such as rope knotting and will feature stuffed animals indigenous to the local environment.

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