It’s Folk Festival time, Richmond. And yes, we know it’s going to be rainy. But only on Saturday, and even then, there are six tents you can stand under. Wear your rain boots, bring an umbrella and get ready to hear some awesome music.

(And that's just on Saturday, the rest of the time the weather should be clear.)

Over 40 performers are coming to Richmond from all over the world. And they're all performing for free. Head to pretty much any stage all weekend long and you're guaranteed to have a great time.

But if you like to plan (like we do), here are six things we think you've got to see this weekend.


Opening night is always a blast at the Folk Festival. There’s just something about it. The lights come on, it’s dark, and you get to roam around an island listening to free music. And guess what, it’s not supposed to rain tonight until the wee hours of the morning. The Folk Fest opens tonight with the BeauSoleil Trio performing some rousing Cajun music on the Altria stage, followed by Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino from the South of Italy; they perform authentic Italian trance music, a new type of music for the Folk Festival. The Altria stage closes out the evening with an energetic performance from L’Orchestre Afrisa International, a Congo dance band that is going to be so much fun (and will get you dancing for sure). Over in the Dominion Dance Pavilion, there will be zydeco dance lessons, followed by a zydeco performance from Geno Delafose & French Rockin’ Boogie. While on the Community Foundation Stage, there will be some really beautiful Cuban music from Adonis Puentes & the Voice of Cuba Orchestra. Click on the links to hear audio clips of each performer.

Last year’s big draw at the Folk Fest was the packed performance from Grandmaster Flash, the grandfather of hip-hop. The year before, there was break-dancing. This year, the tradition continues with beat boxing. The Folk Fest is bringing in three beat boxers: Rahzel, Nicole Paris and Ed Cage.  Rahzel grew up in Queens and his cousin was an original member of the Furious Five, who performed with Grandmaster Flash. He has performed with The Roots and worked with artists like Björk. His mouth is his instrument and makes some pretty amazing sounds using only his lips, tongue and cheeks. Nicole Paris is a 24-year-old beat boxer taking the world by storm. She performs with her dad, beat boxer Ed Cage. She posted a video of herself and her dad in a beatbox battle called “Master vs. Apprentice Part 2” that went viral in 2015. Nicole Paris and Ed Cage will be performing on the Saturday on the Dominion Dance Pavilion at 4:15 p.m. and on Sunday at the Carmax Family Stage at 2:45 p.m. All three beat boxers will perform Sunday on the Community Foundation Stage at 4:15 p.m.

Richmond, we know you’re a foodie town. This weekend, the Folk Fest is devoting the entire Virginia Folklife Area to Virginia’s Food Traditions, just for you. That means there’s going to be cooking demonstrations and presentations on everything from the fried apple pies of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the crab bisque from Tangier Island. You will get to learn how to make these Virginia recipes and even get to taste some of the results. Check out our article below on the special foodways section at the Folk Fest this year. The Virginia Folklife Stage will also play host to a variety of “tasty licks” from all kinds of Virginia performers – such as bluegrass, gospel, singer-songwriters and more. Check out the schedule of cooking demos in the sidebar.

Every year there’s a new theme in the Children’s Area. And this year’s theme is “Storybook Adventures.” Fun new activities in the Children’s Area include a Fairytale Engineers station where kids can pretend to be the engineers for the Three Little Pigs and help make a life-sized dragon sculpture. Kid-friendly performances in the Children’s Area include a Lakota hoop dancer on Saturday, a Brazilian puppet show on Saturday and a youth bango contest. Father-daughter beat boxers Nicole Paris and Ed Cage will also perform on the Children’s Stage on Sunday at 2:45 p.m.

The 25-year-old bluesman Marquise Knox has been compared to B.B. King. He’s been performing the Mississippi Delta blues since he was 16 and has a musical presence that is just incredible. He will be performing on Friday on the Dominion Dance Pavilion at 9 p.m.; on Saturday on the Community Foundation Stage at 7 p.m., and Sunday on the Altria Stage at 4 p.m. Check out a video below:

Saturday Night at the Dance Pavilion

Jim Wark, from the Folk Fest programming committee says, “Saturday night, all roads lead to the Dance Tent.” Gary U.S. Bonds, L'Orchestre Afrisa Inernational, Maceo Parker – it's going to be an absolute power-house. Just get there early to get your spot under the tent. 

Check the full schedule here.

Be sure to download the RVA Folk Festival app --for free-- on iTunes and the Google store to get your schedule on the go.

And don't forget to put a drop in the bucket. It is not easy to pull this thing off, especially under tricky weather conditions. Put $5 in the bucket and keep this festival free.

Listen to audio clips, watch videos and find more stories on our Folk Festival page.

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(804) 649-6151

Twitter: @collcurran

More Folk Festival

Folk FestivalFind more audio, videos, photo galleries and articles on the Richmond Folk Festival here.

Colleen Curran covers arts and entertainment for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. She writes the weekly column Top Five Weekend Events.

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