Prepare to see colorful Carnival costumes from the Caribbean, Mongolian masks, stilt walkers and more at the Richmond Folk Festival.
“Masquerade” — from masks and costumes to music and revelry — is the theme of this year’s Folklife area, sponsored by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
“We’ll be featuring masters of different types of costumes, masks and ceremonial dress to represent our various immigrant communities in Virginia,” said Jon Lohman, the director of the Virginia Folklife Program at Virginia Humanities.
“It’s a universal theme across cultures for people to masquerade,” he added. “For Halloween, it’s fitting to dress up. In other cultures, ceremonial dress and Carnival is a deep part of their identity. It’s a real expression of, ‘This is who we are.’”
A master Mongolian mask-maker from Arlington County will be bringing his masks for visitors to see up close. Dancers will don them and perform in a Buddhist drama.
A Cambodian costume and crown-maker from the Washington, D.C., area will be showcasing his creations. The crowns are delicate, and some have jewels and rosettes on springs that sparkle with the dancers’ movements.
Carnival costumes will be coming from a Trinidadian community in the Virginia Beach area. Some of the costumes are 20 to 30 feet high and will be accompanied by dancers and stilt-walkers.
For the first time, Mongolian contortion will make an appearance on the Folklife stage. Mandkhai Erdembat, a Mongolian contortionist from Falls Church, is considered by many to be the best in the world.
Another first: Vietnamese music will be performed by the Nguyen Dinh Nghia Family. One of its performers is a master of the dàn bau, a one-stringed instrument central to Vietnamese folk music.
“We’ve been involved [with the Richmond Folk Festival] in several different locations, but we really like the Virginia Folklife area,” said Thomas A. Silvestri, president and publisher of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “That’s because it highlights our state’s deep traditions, which aligns with our own mission as a member of our community for more than 165 years. In many ways, traditions define what Virginia is today, and we relish our role in sharing the stories of old — and new — customs that continue to shape the state’s future.”
“We’ve made a real effort in the Folklife area to represent Virginia as it is. All of these traditions are part of Virginia. The music, the craft, the food — all of these traditions came from somewhere and make Virginia what it is today,” Lohman said.
American cultural traditions such as shucking oysters, making fried apple pie, and Colonial costumes also will be demonstrated in the Folklife area.
The Virginia Folklife Stage will see plenty of bluegrass, old time, gospel and blues music throughout the weekend.
Festival favorites The Ingramettes will be returning this year to perform on the Folklife Stage, as well as raspy blues singer Sherman Holmes and Reverend Frank Newsome, who sings Old Regular Baptist hymns.
And get ready for some star power: Four National Heritage Fellows from Virginia will be performing on the Folklife stage throughout the weekend.
Eddie Bond from the New Ballards Branch Bogtrotters, who play old-time string band music, is the most recent recipient of the fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Holmes and Newsome also are National Heritage Fellows.
The Chosen Few, an African-American a cappella gospel group from the Chesapeake area, will perform at the Folk Festival for the first time. Reverend Tarrence Paschall, a former fellowship winner from the legendary Paschall Brothers, will be singing with the group.
After losing their brother Frank, the Paschall Brothers stopped performing. Their last performance was in 2012, when they were awarded the National Heritage Fellowship.
“The Chosen Few really inspired me,” Tarrence Paschall said. “They’re as close as I can get to me and my brothers. They’re a great group of guys. This will be my first time singing with them.”
The Richmond Times-Dispatch will host an hourlong Public Square Q&A session with three Folk Festival artists to kick off the festival on Friday, Oct. 12, on the Virginia Folklife Stage.
The Richmond Folk Festival will be held on Richmond’s riverfront Oct. 12-14.