Nashville, Utah and Cordova have something in common: Juneau.
Folk Fest returns for 40th year 040914 NEWS 1 CAPITAL CITY WEEKLY Nashville, Utah and Cordova have something in common: Juneau.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

Members of the Carolina Chocolate Drops play for a full house as the Guest Artists at the Alaska Folk Festival in 2007. The band members are Sule Greg Wilson, left, Don Flemons, Rhiannon Giddens and Justin Robinson, right.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

Susie Kendig and Tom Melville, center, and others dance during the Coffee and Jam event at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center as part of the 38th Annual Alaska Folk Festival in 2012.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

John Bruns and Sally Burch of Craig play under banners representing Alaska's 50 years of statehood during the first night of the 35th Annual Alaska Folk Festival in 2009.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Story last updated at 4/9/2014 - 3:51 pm

Folk Fest returns for 40th year

Nashville, Utah and Cordova have something in common: Juneau.

The 40th annual Alaska Folk Fest kicked off this Monday and runs through Sunday. More than 130 acts and hundreds of musicians have arrived and are arriving in Juneau from across the continent to perform, said Erin Hanson, president of the Folk Fest board. And, of course, local performers will participate as well.

The guest artist for this year is Louisiana-based "BonSoir, Catin," whose Cajun music is "a unique blend of ancient ballads, dancehall era gems, swamp pop stylings, and rock n' roll blues," according to the group's website.

The guest dance band is the Gallus Brothers from Bellingham, Wash.

They've played in Juneau several times before, but not recently, Hanson said. She said their performances are "almost vaudeville ... they're really fun."

To select performers for the main stage, the board doesn't solicit recordings - instead, the performer or group describes what they do in an application, and the board assigns spots, trying to get a balance of different kinds of music, Hanson said.

Folk Fest is incredibly popular with musicians: This year, more than 50 groups were put on a waitlist.

"This being the 40th year, there are a lot of people coming who maybe haven't been here for a few years," she said. "I think no matter what, every night is going to be really good."

The dance nights - Thursday, Friday and Saturday - are among the most popular evenings. On Thursday and Saturday, one of the Gallus Brothers will be a dance caller.

Hanson said Folk Fest is a great place to start learning called dance.

"If you've never contra danced or square danced ... the dances we have at Folk Fest are really fun," she said. "It's a lot of great energy. People who have never been to a called dance before, we definitely encourage them to do it at Folk Fest."

Friday night is "more of a boogie night," she said. Both BonSoir, Catin and the Gallus Brothers will be playing, as will some other bands.

Workshops take place Saturday and Stunday.

"It's a cool opportunity to learn directly from somebody who is an expert in their fields," Hanson said. "And like everything else in Folk Fest, it's free. You just show up."

The annual Folk Fest board meeting is on Friday.

"One thing people don't necessarily understand is that kind of like public radio, Folk Fest is member-based," Hanson said. "It's a totally free festival, but we kind of rely on our members to contribute."

Membership starts at $15 a year. The annual meeting (with free pizza) is 5 p.m. Friday at at the Juneau Arts and Cultural Center. People can become members at the meeting. Folk Fest members will discuss anything they wish with the board and elect new board members, Hanson said.

This year's artist is the Ketchikan-based Ray Troll. T-shirts and sweatshirts with his artwork on them will be for sale, and his original art for this year's Folk Fest poster will be auctioned off on Saturday.

Folk Fest, at Centennial Hall April 7-13, is volunteer-run and entirely free.