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30th Humboldt Folklife Festival 

Sat., July 19 - Sat., July 26, 2008

In its 30th year, the Humboldt Folklife Society’s annual summer music festival has grown to eight days — four evening concerts, two dances and two admission-free daytime events. That many shows usually brings to mind touring artists (and high ticket prices) but it is Humboldt’s own musicians who fuel the labor of love that began 30 years ago at Fickle Hill’s Lazy L Ranch.

Founding Folklifer Susan Anderson recalls that the Lazy L had a facade-front western town, and that the stage was an old flatbed horse-drawn wagon. The dance hall was “a classic ‘Tiltin’ Hilton’ ... the floor sloped significantly, and by the end of any given dance all the dancers were pressed into a pack in the lower end of the hall.”

In spite of (or because of) the tilts, the first event succeeded, and over time the Society grew to encompass not only an annual festival but concerts, song circles, pickin’ jams and weekly dance meets. It was a gift, Anderson says, “to ourselves (well, we did it because we wanted something here that we couldn’t find), to our kids (none of them in existence yet, of course), and to the community (hopefully).” It has remained a community-driven organization, with a large volunteer team putting in hundreds of hours to “make music accessible to everyone of all ages.”

Maggie Gainer is one of the many to have raised children in Folklife. Gainer feels that “HFS and the festival have helped to make fine folk music one of the defining characteristics of this region. It is part of the Redwood Coast’s regional flavor. After 30 years, the festival and HFS is integral to the community ... It’s as much about Humboldt family life as about Humboldt folk life.” In the folk world, music and family often become synonymous, as they have for Gainer: “This is where my husband and I first got to know each other. This is where we were proud to show off our new baby. Our rural region is so fortunate to have such high caliber musicians living amongst us ... we tend to take them for granted. The festival really helps to elevate their profile and celebrate their musicianship once a year.”

Indeed, Humboldt’s soaring proportion of musicians per capita means that Folklife can run a strong week-long Festival on local talent alone. Songwriter Eileen Hemphill-Haley notes that before moving to Humboldt, “Every other festival I had ever participated in always focused on bringing in acts from out of town, and invariably local performers — no matter how good they are! — were usually left off the bill. The Humboldt Folklife Society has turned its festival into a celebration of the arts in its own community. What a concept!”

That fusion of music and community seems to be what keeps the Society in perpetual motion. These days, a collaboration with Dell’Arte and the Blue Lake Chamber of Commerce incorporates Folklife as the finale of the Mad River Festival. (The dances are hosted offsite, in Arcata and Bayside.) Over the course of the week, hundreds of musicians and music lovers gather in Blue Lake to play, learn, listen and jam.

This year’s Festival starts Saturday, July 19, with a Swing Dance at Arcata’s Veteran’s Hall. Sunday, it’s out to Blue Lake’s Perigot Park for the Annie & Mary Day Fiddle Festival, which gives way to Dell’Arte’s raucous Blue Lake Pageant. Monday through Thursday are concert nights at Dell’Arte — Flying Fingers, Acoustic Jazz, Songwriters and Backyard Bluegrass & Beyond. On Friday the crew travels to the Bayside Grange for an Old Time Dance of contras, country and southern squares. On Saturday the 26th, Folklife pulls out all the stops with two stages, jam sessions and music and dance workshops for kids and adults, running from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Alma’s Tacos, Sushi Agogo and Mocha Motion drive out to Blue Lake for the day, so between the wagons and Dell’Arte concessionaires, nourishment is readily available.)

HFS President Patrick Cleary says, “I think it is the workshops and jams that are the most important part of the Festival.” The Society encourages everyone to try something new over the course of the week. Although the Festival showcases local skill, for the Folklife crowd, it’s ultimately about getting everyone to pick, sing or dance. As multi-instrumentalist Mike McLaren says, “Folk and blues ... it’s not how you play it, you just need to play it.”

The Folklife Festival runs Saturday, July 19 through Saturday, July 26 in Blue Lake, Arcata and Bayside.Tickets are available in Arcata at The Metro, The Works & Wildwood Music; in Eureka at The Works; online at; and at the event Dell’arte Ticket Office. Call 707 822-5394 or visit the website for more information.


Most of the Folklife Festival will be broadcast live through the North Coast Journal website, Log on and listen.


The Kickoff Swing Dance on Sat., July 19, 7:30 p.m. at the Arcata Veteran’s Hall, is a new event this year, with two of the area’s most popular swing bands, The Country Pretenders and Falling Rocks. The Country Pretenders play western swing and classic country in the style of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard — pedal steel, bass, drums and twin guitar, plus the legendary voice of Joyce Hough. Falling Rocks showcases the rich harmonies of Ken and Maria Jorgenson alongside Hal Krohn on guitar and Todd Clinesmith on steel. HFS invites dancers and “just listeners” — no experience required.

The Old Time Contra and Square Dance at the Bayside Grange, 7:30 p.m., Fri., July 25, brings Sue Moon up from Southern Humboldt to call contra and country dance sets to the tunes of the Wild Rumpus Band, followed by southern square caller Tara Stetz with the Striped Pig Stringband. Dancers of any age are encouraged to join in or just listen. All dances are taught, and you don’t need to bring a partner.

The All Day Free Festival on Sat., July 20, at Dell’Arte, boasts two dance workshops for kids — Bellydance and Irish — plus Barn and Kitchen Dances and Bellydancing for adults! The Emerald Coast Irish Dancers will join Scatter the Mud on the Amp Stage.


Kickoff Swing Dance

7:30 p.m., Arcata Veteran’s Hall

With Falling Rocks and The Country Pretenders


FREE ALL DAYAnnie & Mary Day Fiddle Festival

11 a.m.-4 p.m., Perigot Park, Blue Lake

11 a.m Open Mic

Noon HSU Music Academy Fiddlers

12:40 p.m. Roddy Ross

1 p.m. Good Company

1:50 p.m. Evan Morden

2 p.m. Kevin Woolley

2:15 p.m. McHaney Family Band

2:50 p.m. Luddite Stringband

3:30 p.m. Scatter the Mud and The Emerald Coast Dancers

The Fiddle Festival is part of the Blue Lake Chamber of Commerce Annie & Mary Day festivities.


Flying fingers

7:30 p.m., Dell’Arte Carlo Theatre, Blue Lake

7:30 p.m. Daugherty Duo Bass

8 p.m. Fiddles Afire

9 p.m. Flatpickin’ Summit

9:45 p.m. Banjo Challenge


Acoustic Jazz

7:30 p.m., Dell’Arte Carlo Theatre, Blue Lake

7:30 p.m. Blue Lotus Jazz

8:30 p.m. Hot Club Papers

9:30 p.m. Gregg Moore & Co.

Songwriter Showcase

7:30 p.m., Dell’Arte Carlo Theatre, Blue Lake

Hosted by Lila Nelson with Tim Gray, Angela Rose, Calleaghn Kinnamon and John Ludington

Backyard Bluegrass and Beyond

6 p.m. (Doors open at 5 p.m.)
Dell’Arte Rooney Amphitheatre, Blue Lake (bring a blanket!)

6 p.m. Clean Livin’

7 p.m. Old Dog

8 p.m. Huckleberry Flint

9 p.m. The Compost Mountain Boys


Barn Dance

7:30 p.m., Bayside Grange, Bayside

7:30 p.m. The Wild Rumpus Band with caller Sue Moon

9 p.m. The Striped Pig Stringband with caller Tara Stetz


Dell’Arte Rooney Amphitheatre, Blue Lake

11 a.m. Mike and Marla, Hearthfire

Noon Rooster McClintock

1 p.m. Scatter the Mud with Guests

2 p.m. Eileen Hemphill-Haley

3 p.m. Ukesperience

4 p.m. Jorgenson family

5 p.m. Sari Baker Trio

6 p.m. Blushing Roulettes

7 p.m. Bayou Swamis

Street Stage

11 a.m. Breeze

11:45 a.m. Jerry Cottrell

12:30 p.m. Sidekicks

1:15 p.m. Musaic

2 p.m. Ken Collins & Friends

2:45 p.m. Northcoast Mbira Band

3:30 p.m.Errol Previde

4:15 p.m. Likely Story

5 p.m. Todd Krider

6 p.m. Bandemonium

6:45 p.m. Morgan Corviday

Carlo Theatre

11 a.m. Songs in Two Languages with Lisa Monet

Noon Irish Dance Demo with Irish Dancers

1 p.m. Belly Dance for Kids with Shoshanna

2 p.m. Songs & Games with Seabury Gould

3 p.m. Jug Band Youth Jam with Mike McLaren

4 p.m. Kids Open Mic

Workshops – South

10 a.m. Slide guitar with Mike McLaren

11 a.m. Dulcimer with Mike McLaren

Noon Harmony Singing with Jorgensons

1 p.m. Clawhammer Banjo with Kurt Hippen

2 p.m. Belly Dance with Shoshanna

3 p.m. Barn Dances with 2 Bad Sues

4 p.m. Irish Kitchen Dances with 2 Bad Sues

5 p.m. Celtic Session with Scatter the Mud

Workshops – North

10 a.m. Twin Fiddling with Judy and Brooks

11 a.m. Banjo with Brooks Otis

Noon Travis Picking with Joel and Patrick

1 p.m. Uke Workshop and Jam with Ukesperience

2 p.m. Daugherty Bass Workshop with Jeff & Bob

3 p.m. Beatles Song Circle with Joel Sonenshein

4 p.m. Pete Seeger Song Circle with Seabury Gould

Jam Zone

Noon to Sunset – Open Jam Session

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