This year, my hometown of Salisbury, MD was privileged to host the 78th annual National Folk Festival. As one of the 23 selected tri-state artisans for the Festival Marketplace, I had the unique opportunity to showcase my work during this amazing event. And, although the three days presented major weather problems and huge logistical feats for our small town, in my opinion it could not have gone any better than it did.
According to the festival’s website, “Since it was first presented in St. Louis in 1934, the National has celebrated the roots, richness, and variety of American culture…. Some of the artists presented at the first festival are now legendary and the recordings and other documentation made possible by the National are precious. “Father of the Blues” W.C. Handy’s first performance on a desegregated stage was at the 1938 National. It was also the first to present to the public musical forms such as the blues, Cajun music, polka bands, Tex-Mex conjunto, Peking Opera, and many others.”
7 music stages, placed strategically along our downtown’s streets, gave people the opportunity to come together to hear some really incredible performances covering all genres. There were street performers, good eats and local cultural activities.
Yesterday, I received a phone call from a reporter at The Daily Times of Salisbury. She wanted to ask me a few questions about my experience as a vendor, and to see if I had any suggestions on how things could be improved for the 2019 & 2020 Folk Festivals. I told her that I could not think of literally one thing that I would’ve changed about the festival itself. In my opinion, Salisbury really rose to the occasion and gave our community (and those beyond) a weekend FULL of memories and fellowship. Perhaps the only minor detail that could be addressed going forward would be to make it more clear that the artisans that were selected were LOCAL to Maryland and the Delmarva Peninsula, and not traveling in with the musicians. I cannot tell you how many people were truly surprised when I mentioned that I live & work just about a mile from the festival grounds.
Here are some of my favorite moments of my experience at the Festival Marketplace (and, I am sure that I could think of many, many more.)
- seeing our entire community gathered together on common ground- in spite of cold, rainy conditions.
- the overwhelming sense of community in the artisan tent amongst the other vendors that were participating. (and getting to meet some artists in person that I have respected for a very, very long time.)
- having the opportunity to show my children (ages 3&5) each of the other artisan’s work in my tent, and explaining why I respect how they work with their hands.
- being encouraged in person by people that have been following my work online, and hearing their stories of how they had initially found out about it.
- spending quality time with my parents and husband as they helped out in the booth.
- having the opportunity to encourage young artists who are either currently majoring in art at Salisbury University (my alma mater, too) or in high school taking art classes.
- helping a Nicaraguan artist to learn how to make prints of his work so that he could ship them home to his family.
- running into almost every person I have ever met in 23 years of living here.
- hearing people’s unique stories about their travels (after they asked about the U.S watercolor map shown on my booth banner)
- feeling a deep sense of pride to call Salisbury my hometown.
So, to sum it all up, The National Folk Festival far exceeded my expectations. And, although it’s almost a year away, I am definitely day-dreaming about my application & art booth for 2019. Please make your plans to be there next year. You will not regret it (even if you need to bring rain boots and a poncho.)
Thank you, Salisbury, for allowing me to participate in my first-ever major art fair. If this is what soggy and windy feels like, I can’t wait for 80 and sunny.
Rachel Alvarez of Rachel Alvarez Art
**funny side note, during the weekend I went to get a mint out of my backpack. I opened my altoids tin only to realize that I had accidentally brought my homemade mini watercolor palette instead. ha! #artistproblems
Photos by local Salisbury photographer, Manda Weaver.