PUBLISHED: 5:19 PM on Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Southeast folks like their festivals
34th annual Alaska Folk Festival to be held April 7-13
Juneau has been host to the Alaska Folk Festival since 1975. This year the week of April 7-13 reins in musicians from more than 2,000 miles away, some of which have developed their skill in Juneau's backyard.

Folk Fest is nine, four-hour performances averaging 15-17 acts each, 14 hours of dances, a family concert and more than 40 hours of teaching workshops devoted to a wide range of skills.

  Pictured: 2008 Folk Festival poster by Eric Bealer
The idea of a guest artist has stuck since 1977. This years' guest artist is Les Amis Creole from eastern Texas. Their fiddle music has the unique influence of R&B, hip-hop and reggae. They are James Adams, Cedric Watson, Ed Poullard, and Corey Ledet.

"We have never had Creole music before," said Greg McLaughlin, vice president of the festival. "It is closely related to Cajun music - a similar sound - but a bit different background."

This year about 140 musicians will perform during the week, many of them continuing to jam well into the next morning after the concerts in Centennial Hall, according to McLaughlin.

"The number of performers was narrowed down. It is not uncommon for more than 200 musicians to apply for performance times," McLaughlin said. "We often have to shuffle things around and some musicians are on wait lists."

The popularity of this event can be seen in the number of participants and attendees. People from all over the state often plan a year ahead for this event, he said.

Concerts are from 7-11pm Monday - Thursday, Friday tends to run a bit later. Dances, including contra and free-form boogie, will be held in the Armory this year are on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Concerts on Saturday will run until about 2am. Sunday will end earlier. Out of town artists will predominantly take the stage on the weekend.

The Saturday and Sunday workshops, developed so that musicians could share and build skills, range from flat-picking and various aspects of guitar, to song writing and harmony singing.

This year there will be a panel-form workshop on various forms of the fiddle. There will be several fiddle artists who will each explain how they came to play the fiddle, their individual techniques and demonstrations of their styles.

"I myself am giving a workshop on French Canadian music," McLaughlin said. The workshops will be held in the Alaska State Museum, the original venue for the festival in 1975 when it was a one-day event.

"Its one of the more popular events in Juneau, it draws a lot of people to town, the hotels fill up and there is music everywhere," McLaughlin said. "It's certainly high on the fun-meter."

An estimated 10,000 people will walk through the doors during April 7-13 free of charge, being that the festival is supported entirely by membership, so people are encouraged to become members and purchase t-shirts or posters in support.

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