Andrew Hanley first came to the Richmond Folk Festival two years ago when his daughter performed with an Irish group called The Green Fields of America.
While his daughter wasn’t one of the dozens of artists at this year’s festival, Hanley still felt the need to travel from Boston on Thursday for Richmond’s three-day music mecca.
“It’s really rich,” he said. “We’ve caught the whole spectrum of things. It’s a great festival.”
The festival brought in a record $136,000 in donations this year, said Lisa Sims, the CEO of Venture Richmond, which puts on the festival on. Nearly $6,000 of that amount came via text message, a new feature at this year’s festival.
More than 200,000 people attended the festival, organizers estimated. All beverage-sale records were also broken.
“We had a fantastic weekend,” said Sims, who added: “We couldn’t be more proud of our volunteers, or any more grateful for the support from our community.”
Joined by friends from Richmond and elsewhere, Hanley enjoyed the final day of this year’s festival, the 15th in Richmond. The event this year saw nice weather overall — though it was a bit overcast on Sunday with some rain — and big crowds throughout the weekend, with a variety of music rivaled only by the number of different food trucks and tents camped near the banks of the James River.
Hanley indulged in the nimble footwork of Kevin Doyle & Friends, an Irish step dance group. For Billy Drislane, a first-time Folk Festival attendee from Vermont, the highlight of the day was dancing to the sounds of the Garifuna Collective, music that represents the history of a culturally threatened African Amerindian ethnic minority who live mostly along the Caribbean coasts of Belize, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua.
“It’s just a really good scene,” Drislane said of the festival.
Of course, it wasn’t just out-of-towners who enjoyed the annual event. Deborah and Loren Simms, both from Richmond, have come to the Folk Festival multiple times in its 15 years. Loren enjoys the arts and crafts, while Deborah likes the environment.
“Everybody’s just cool and relaxed,” Deborah Simms said. “There’s a really good vibe.”
Shortly before they sat down for a break on Brown’s Island, the members of a Memphis soul group, Stax Music Academy Alumni Band, performed at the Dominion Energy Dance Pavilion. At the Community Foundation Stage, Panfilo’s Güera performed Texas-Mexican fiddling. Across the canal, a yearly blockbuster showdown transpired.
Deborah Pratt and Clementine Macon Boyd have been shucking oysters since the 1970s (Boyd, who is younger, started first). They have each won the Virginia Oyster Shucking Competition and the National Oyster Shucking Championship.
Going into Sunday, they had competed seven times at the Richmond Folk Festival, the older sister leading the series four to three. Boyd evened the series Sunday at the Richmond Times-Dispatch Virginia Folklife Stage.
“We always love each other,” Boyd said after the win, hugging her sister after a tight competition.
“To see competitors embrace each other at the end was so beautiful,” said Midlothian resident Doug Garrett.
He watched the competition in between performances of the CASYM Steel Orchestra, which uses instruments fashioned from 55-gallon oil drums, and Dale Watson, whose Texas honky-tonk had crowds dancing Saturday night and Sunday.
“The variety of the music is what’s really the strength,” Garrett said.