Eric Anderson and Marisa Murphy of Philadelphia toast their marriage moments after the two were married in the campground at the festival. The couple felt it would be a good place for the ceremony since many of their friends attend the event.
After the fanfare of last year’s 50th anniversary gala, the Philadelphia Folk Festival quietly began its second half-century last weekend at the Old Poole Farm in Upper Salford Township. Like so many of its predecessors, this year’s installment was a real crowd pleaser.
As is often the case at Fest, the weather presented some challenges as heavy rains arrived Friday night, dropping over an inch of rain on the site. But in true folk festival fashion, music lovers of all ages reveled between the raindrops.
Not surprisingly, top-notch musical acts were again the centerpiece of this year’s event. The 2012 edition showcased some 75 performers from such diverse genres as bluegrass, Celtic, gospel, funk, blues and folk. Once again this year, there was something for every musical taste.
Friday’s show featured the triumphant return of the iconic Mary Chapin Carpenter after a 25 year hiatus from the stage. Truth be told, this lady doesn’t seem to get older, only better.
The musical gems continued right into Saturday, as folk-rock heavies Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle and John Hiatt kept the hits coming all night long. Earle really got the crowd excited when he trotted out such fan favorites as “Copperhead Road” and “Someday.” Most concert-goers, however, cited funk-rock stalwarts “Little Feat” as their favorite performance of the night. Their cover of the late great Levon Helm’s “the Weight” left many folks teary-eyed. In a bit of sad irony, Helm played that very song here nearly one year ago to the day, months before losing his battle with cancer. It was yet another “goose-bump” moment at Philly Folk Fest.
Karen Nice and Lori Seavey dance to the music of one of the live bands which appeared Saturday afternoon on the Main Stage at the 51st annual Philadelphia Folk Festival in Upper Salford Township.
Sunday night’s show began with several low-key acts while most attendees eagerly anticipated festival headliner Trombone Shorty. And, like the rising star he is, Shorty did not disappoint. His unique fusion of New Orleans Jazz, blues, funk and soul had every person in the place up and dancing. We can’t remember ever seeing that many folks grooving at the “Fest.”
In addition to all the world class musical talent, Folk Fest is so much more than concerts. Shoppers can purchase unique hand-made crafts from across the country. Merchandise ranges from fine leather, jewelry and clothing to musical instruments and hammocks. And if shopping and dancing make visitors hungry, fest is also a great place to eat. Dozens of food-vending tents offer such varied fare as organic hand-dipped ice cream, Cajun specialties, Greek, Mexican, and real southern barbecue, to name a few. For those in search of more traditional offerings, there are also plenty of French fries, burgers and pizza. It should be noted that the Skippack Lion’s Club and both the Upper Salford and Schwenksville Volunteer Fire Departments raise much of their annual operating income from food sales at the festival. So please enjoy the fries now and then. You’ll be helping hard-working people help others in need.
With so many choices of music, food and merchandise available, it may come as a surprise that many festival goers would call the camping experience their favorite part of folk fest. The term “campground” hardly seems fitting, as the place more closely resembles a carnival. Colorfully clad people occupy campsites with equally colorful names including “Club Ned”, “the Festicles”, “Spam-Hogs”, “Bottom-Feeders” and “the Boar’s Nest”. Some of these sites have existed for generations, and act as home for up to 30 people for four nights each August.
Ariston Pouliot, 2 1/2 of Plymouth Meeting jams out on a demonstrator xylophone in the vendor area.
Just when we thought we had seen it all in the campground, Saturday afternoon brought a Folk Fest first for our family. At a centrally located footpath intersection, over 150 people witnessed the wedding ceremony of Eric Anderson and Marisa Murphy of Philadelphia. The parents of both the bride and groom were in attendance, along with 6 bridesmaids, and a host of friends, family members, and perfect strangers from the campground. When the couple first appeared, the crowd broke into a spontaneous vocal rendition of “the Wedding March”. This is yet another example of the spirit and vitality that makes our festival special.
Not surprisingly, an event of this magnitude requires months of preparation and planning by several hundred dedicated volunteers. Grounds Crew Resident Site Manager David Cook (known to most as “Chickie”) of Mohnton, Berks County has been volunteering at Fest for 35 years. He moves into a trailer on festival grounds in late June and stays there until mid-September. He and his volunteer crew of 125 weekend helpers construct dozens of temporary buildings and erect miles of snow and safety fencing to transform a working farm into a world class music festival site each summer, and have just a few weeks to return it to a farm afterwards. They are, without a doubt, the hardest working people there.
So another Philadelphia Folk Festival has come and gone. Our family can’t imagine a summer without this place. Our friend (and 47 year festival goer) Susan Hunsinger-Hoff of Hatboro summed the experience up like this. “It is the cherry on top of my summer.” We could not agree more.
Hope to see you all there in 2013.