The rain held off, the wedding went on and the music started.
The Richmond Folk Festival was back Friday evening with good times on the riverfront. Even if rain soaks the grounds on Saturday, as forecast, dodging the threat of a hurricane made a little wetness seem a minor inconvenience.
Two more days of festivities continue on six stages on Brown’s Island and the Tredegar riverfront, with music that ranges from beat boxers to Bulgarian pipers.
Three hours before the kickoff, Grant Osborne shifted uncomfortably in his tartan Scottish kilt and Prince Charlie jacket, nervous at the thought of his soon-to-be Celtic wedding to Laura Napky.
The stages and streets mostly were empty and quiet, except for the occasional bagpiper warming up. Osborne was ready to say the words he’d been wanting to say since he proposed to Napky last November on her birthday.
“I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life putting a smile on your face,” he rehearsed.
Osborne and Napky, a longtime festival volunteer, were the first couple to tie the knot at the festival in the event’s 12-year history. Since the Folk Life stage wasn’t in use Friday evening, they were able to make it their own.
Quilts hung from rungs of a wooden ladder, with a sign inviting guests to “snuggle up” if the cloudy weather caused a chill.
Tables were decorated with pictures of their ancestors in vintage gold frames, silver tiered stands with suspended jewels and storybooks opened to Napky’s favorite fairy tales.
Napky walked down the aisle in her laced, beaded gown as St. Andrew’s Legion Pipes & Drums played “Skye Boat Song.” Osborne beamed.
In a final tradition, the pipes and drums led the newlyweds on a parade over the Seventh Street and Fifth Street bridges at Brown’s Island. Crossing over two bodies of water on your wedding day brings good luck, the tradition says.
Guests followed them carrying wands and tambourines wrapped in lace, waving at passersby and cheering.
“I’m just so excited, but calm. I’m ready to spend my life with my best friend,” Napky said later.
Her gown would be put away after the night. But she planned to wear white dresses for the rest of the weekend as she enjoyed the festival as a spectator.
BeauSoleil Trio’s Michael Doucet knows hurricanes and rain all too well. In the corner of Southwest Louisiana where he rediscovered Cajun music 41 years ago, rain fell for days this summer and dumped as much as 30 inches in some places.
“We brought you a little humidity. We have plenty to spare where we came from,” he joked from the Altria Stage, where the trio sounded the first notes of the festival program.
BeauSoleil was in Richmond in 2008 for the first year of Richmond’s version of the National Folk Festival. Doucet, 65, said he was glad to be back with the smaller group, the trio that began to revive the French-influenced music that came from Acadia — what is now parts of the northeastern U.S. and eastern Canada — to Louisiana.
In the audience, a small child in a yellow jacket and pink pants bounced in time to the music. An older couple swung their hands.
No one could see the sunset because of the clouds, but the picture seemed rosy just the same.
In the Dominion Dance Pavilion, the other Louisiana folk tradition reigned. Gene Delafose & French Rockin’ Boogie got the party started with the zydeco music that developed from Creole roots. Talia Moser preceded the performance with a dance lesson.
“I love it that the dance floor is always packed for this. We don’t want anybody standing still,” said Moser, who hosts the Louisiana Dance Hall radio show on WRIR 97.3 in Richmond.
Zydeco music has a more syncopated beat than Cajun. It inspires a dance that has “more punch and bounce and swing,” she said.
Gloria Amado, 8, has been coming to the Folk Festival for seven years, said her mother, Sandra Williams-Amado of Midlothian. They were waiting in the Dance Pavilion while they plotted their course for the evening.
“It’s great to learn about other cultures, the food, the music, the art, “ Williams-Amado explained the appeal. Gloria was looking forward to the break dancing and funk.
A mix of festival newcomers and veterans spilled onto the festival grounds within the first hour of opening night Friday.
Holly Catright, 29, was talking a walk around her neighborhood when she stumbled on the festival, which she hadn’t attended in several years. She was excited to roam, but planned on taking zydeco dance lessons later.
Sharon Murphy and Allan Kates knew exactly where they were going. They were headed straight to the tents where Celtic music was scheduled to play.
The prospect of rain didn’t deter the two.
“You always come. You just bring your umbrella,” Kates said.
That was also the motto of Bob and Janet Johnson.
“We don’t dance,” they said. “But we love hearing music from different worlds.”
They always make a schedule, they said, but always end up straying from the plan for something unexpected. One year, that surprise was Japanese drummers.
It wasn’t long Friday until they were swaying ever so slightly to the Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino, a southern Italian pizzica tarantata band playing at the Altria stage just after 8 p.m.
Londell Hamilton and Nicole Archer were headed to Altria too, eager to see the band that had already coaxed an entire crowd to sing along.
He was ready for something different.
“That’s what’s great about this, the diversity,” Hamilton said.
Lisa Sims, interim executive director of Venture Richmond, breathed a sign of relief as the evening progressed.
“The crowd looks really great,” she said. “People came a little later. They were waiting to see what the weather was going to do. About 7, everything was packed. All the stages are packed. The food vendors are packed.
“It’s nice out there.”