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PUBLISHED: 4:35 PM on Wednesday, April 11, 2007
33rd Annual Alaska Folk Festival gets Juneau groovin' to the music

Since 1975 when a half dozen of Juneau folk musicians performed at the Alaska State Museum and announced it as the First Annual Southeast Alaska Folk Festival, the tradition began and held. Juneau celebrates its 33rd Alaska Folk Festival this year, which began Monday and is continuing through Sunday, April 15.

The festival, beyond live performance concerts includes music workshops, lively dances and events such as a family concert; all take place at Centennial Hall in downtown Juneau. Overall, the festival includes nine four-hour performances, averaging 15 acts each, 14 hours of dances plus dance workshops and 40 plus hours of teaching workshops devoted to every imaginable folk music skill, according to its Web site, www.akfolkfest.org.

The annual week is filled with fun, reunions and serious jamming out. As each festival day comes to an end, don't be surprised to find musicians crooning or strumming the night away in bars, restaurants and every other nook and cranny around town.

The Alaska Folk Festival is unique in many ways from free admittance to the mass of volunteers who make up the event. The festival is a non-profit organization funded by memberships. Coming from across Alaska and other Northwest states, performers range from schoolteachers and children to teenagers and professionals-all ready to share their talents and perform heartfelt music.

This year's guest artist, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, has the town buzzing in anticipation. A group of young African-American stringband musicians, they come together and showcase the rich tradition of fiddle and banjo music in Carolina's piedmont, sources states.

The idea of the guest artist is to broaden musical horizons of festival musicians.

At the third annual festival in 1977, the honored tradition of inviting a guest artist began with Merle Travis, a folk and country musician whose innovative guitar style has inspired musicians over the past 30 years.

"I'm really excited about our guest artist because they're going to bring a diversity to our stage that we haven't had in a long time; they're fabulous musicians," said Alaska Folk Festival president, Linda Frame. She said being how young they are, they're role models for young musicians.

Concerning this year's stage backdrop, Frame says it's really great. "We're going to try to chase our winter weather away," she said.

Keeping it real on stage is a wide mélange of festival veterans, including painter a.k.a musician, Budy Tabor, who has been lighting up the stage with his songs for the past 30 years. His style of singer/songwriter acoustic keeps it folky along with flavors of country rock and blues. He said his favorite thing about the Folk Festival is all the live music. Tabor will be performing at 8 p.m. Sunday.

Linda Buckley, of Juneau, and Cadie Buckley, of Yakutat, will belt out a few harmonious acapella songs for their mother/daughter act, "Buckley Women," at 10:15 Friday night. Their songs, which are original numbers, are funny, racy and about living in Juneau, Linda Buckley said.

"They are songs people can relate to and about people falling in love," she said. Both mother and daughter have been singing in different groups for about 20 years at the festival, and performed their duo for the past eight years.

There is something uplifting about Folk Festival; it means spring is here and it brings all these people together, Buckley said.

Coming from Spokane, Wash. is Cheryl Branz, who performed last year at the festival for the first time. She originally landed in Juneau to celebrate her twin brother's birthday, local firefighter Christopher Custer, and embraced the opportunity to play at the festival.

Singer and songwriter, Branz's style is acoustic folk-pop; she will be performing songs from her CD, "Disappear."

"It was so empowering to get up on stage and have such a supportive audience," Branz said. She was impressed that people were so respectful and such an amazing listening audience, she said.

Branz, who picked up the guitar five years ago, and never set it back down, can't believe she waited so long to start. "I feel strongly that I'm living proof it's never too late to try something new," Branz said.

Look for her on Saturday afternoon at 1:45, performing songs including "Flip flops" (with a twist) and a new song, titled "Renaissance."

For those who can't make it every night to the festival or even at all, join in the music stream by listening to Rain Country Radio. KTOO FM & TV will broadcast live at KRNN 102.7 for the entire Alaska Folk Festival from 7 p.m.-11 p.m. with extended times through the weekend.

For more information on the Alaska Folk Festival call (907) 463-3316 or go online at www.akfolkfest.org.


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