Alaska Folk Festival

Alaska Folk Festival
The Alaska Folk Festival is an annual music festival held in the Alaska’s capital city of Juneau. It most commonly takes place during the second week of April. The festival focuses on folk music of Alaska, the Northwestern United States, and Canada.

The history of the Alaska Folk Festival began in 1975, when a group of folk musicians from Juneau organized a concert in the Alaska State Museum and called it the First Annual Southeast Alaska Folk Festival. Their main goal was to offer the townspeople a musical break from cabin fever. The event featured eight musicians and an audience of almost 400 people, mostly friends and friends of friends. The event was deemed a success so the organizers decided to indeed make it an annual affair.

Throughout the following year, they held as series of workshops for musicians to pass their skill on. Largely due to these workshops, the second edition of the festival featured almost 30 performers and lasted for three days. By 1977 Juneau’s folk festival had become an important regional cultural event featuring more than 50 musicians from across Southeast Alaska. The Alaska Folk Festival has been growing steadily ever since.

Today’s festival includes performances from solo artists and musical groups from the United States and Canada, workshops for emerging musicians and people interested in music, jam sessions, dances, singer-songwriter showcases and seminars, and a variety of other events for people of all ages and backgrounds.

One of the festival’s most exciting traditions is having a Guest Artist participate in the performances and workshops. The Guest Artist is an established folk musician/band that plays two 45-minute sets on the main stage as well as jams with local musicians and teaches workshops throughout the festival.

Unlike the Guest Artist, the rest of the performers (musicians, dancers and poets) have 15 minutes to perform, including the setup time. The week-long festival typically includes nine concerts with about 15 acts in each concert. There is no rigorous selection process, but the number of performance sports is limited so the organizers give preference to performers who are applying for the first time or were waitlisted the previous year.

In 2021, the event was held online due to the coronavirus pandemic.

All concerts and other events included in the program of the Alaska Folk Festival are completely free to the public. The festival is a not-for-profit event run by volunteers and supported solely by donations.

Alaska Folk Festival

Photo: Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire




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