The 44th Annual Natchitoches-NSU Folk Festival

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The 44th Annual Natchitoches-NSU Folk Festival will be held on Saturday July 20, 2024, in air-conditioned Prather Coliseum, located at 220 South Jefferson Street at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches. The festival’s curated showcase of Louisiana folk musicians, food vendors, and traditional crafts persons will open at 9:00am, with live entertainment scheduled for 9:30am to 10:00pm.

In honor of this year’s theme, “The Old Songs Live Forever,” the festival will feature three stages of music, with performances by Johnny Earthquake and the Moondogs, Sonny Gullage and the Blues Groovers, Dikki Du and the Zydeco Krewe, the Forest Huval Cajun Band, Brandon Degeyter and The Mire Playboys, the Armadillo Jackal Band, Fire of Tierra Caliente, The Rick Adams Band, The Thistle Dancers and Pipers, and the Zion Harmonizers.

The 44th Annual Natchitoches-NSU Folk FestivalNatchitoches’ own Johnny Earthquake and the Moondogs are an extremely versatile, 9-10 piece band playing all types of music from the 50s through today. Their critically acclaimed shows truly offer something for everyone.  Their diverse repertoire includes rock, rhythm and blues, funk, country, swing, and even old standards. Also hailing from historic Natchitoches, the Armadillo Jackal Band always offers up a fun, eclectic mix of songs.

The 44th Annual Natchitoches-NSU Folk FestivalThe Thistle Dancers and Pipers, a group of talented young people who perform the traditional Highland dances and music of Scotland, kick things off on the main stage at 9:30am. Get on your feet with fiddler extraordinaire Clancey Stewart at 10:30am on the Main Stage as she teaches free square dance lessons. Accompanied live by the Willie Stewart Family and Friends Bluegrass Band, this will be a great way to learn the basics of square dancing. All ages are welcome! Keep dancing throughout the day with Zydeco dance lessons at 12:30pm, and two sessions of Cajun dance lessons scheduled for both 4:00pm and 5:45pm, respectively. The Festival will also include traditional performances by the dancers of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe at 10:15am, and the Grupo de Danza Folklórica Mexicana Ketzaly at 1:15pm.

The 44th Annual Natchitoches-NSU Folk FestivalA musical patriotic tribute by the Victory Belles kicks off at 2:15pm. The Victory Belles are a delightful vocal trio performing the music of the 1940s, serenading audiences at The National WWII Museum and across the globe. The music of the 1940s brought hope and joy to our GIs and those on the Home Front alike—and the Victory Belles keep that tradition alive in rich, three-part harmony. Their repertoire includes all the treasured gems of the WWII era plus patriotic classics including a musical salute to each branch of the U.S. armed forces.

The 44th Annual Natchitoches-NSU Folk FestivalThe festival will also include numerous food vendors offering traditional Louisiana cuisine. Outdoor activities include demonstrations of traditional blacksmithing and Dutch oven cooking. A child-friendly hands-on demonstration of a 19th century wash day will also be presented.

The Festival will include a Jambalaya Cook-off, in which professionals and hobbyists alike can compete in one of multiple categories and demonstrate their cooking skills. Participants will each cook a minimum of two gallons of jambalaya for competition and tasting in three categories: Seafood, Poultry Plus (chicken, duck, turkey, wild game, sausage, etc), and People’s Choice. All cooking must be done on site using fuel (propane gas) or by contained cooking fire and no mixes of any kind are allowed. Only cooked proteins and broth/stock may be prepared in advance.  Registration and the Cooks’ Meeting will take place at 8:00am. Tasting and judging will begin at 12:30pm, with winners be announced at 3:30pm. There is no fee to compete in the Cook-off. Jambalaya must be cooked on-site outside of Prather Coliseum.  After 1:00pm, participants can sell sample servings of their jambalaya for “a buck a cup.” It’s going to be delicious!

The 44th Annual Natchitoches-NSU Folk FestivalThe Annual Louisiana State Fiddle Championship will be held at 1:00pm in the Magale Recital Hall. The purpose of the Louisiana State Fiddlers’ Championship (LSFC) is to perpetuate the traditional music and styles of fiddling integral to many kinds of Louisiana music, to help develop an appreciation and understanding of traditional music, to encourage young fiddlers to pursue musical endeavors, and to encourage jam sessions and contests as a way to promote creativity and the continuation of the fiddle tradition. There will be a non-championship class and a championship class. A twin fiddle category will also be held. Registration is at noon in the first-floor foyer outside Magale Recital Hall. The Fiddle Championship winner will perform on the main stage in Prather Coliseum at 5:00pm. Curry Perkins of Ragley was named Grand Champion of the 2023 Louisiana State Fiddle Championship and will serve as a judge for this year’s competition.

The 44th Annual Natchitoches-NSU Folk FestivalThe festival includes several opportunities for patrons to engage directly with Louisiana folk culture. Fiddler Clancey Stewart will lead free square dance lessons accompanied by live music from the Willie Stewart Bluegrass Band. Festival patrons can also take advantage of free Cajun and zydeco dance lessons taught by the Cajun French Music Association Dance Troupe. “The festival bridges the distance between artists and the festival patrons, thus breaking the artificial barriers between artists and audience,” said Dr. Shane Rasmussen, director of the festival and NSU’s Louisiana Folklife Center. “Rather than watching from the sidelines, everyone who takes part in these activities will share and engage in Louisiana’s rich culture.”

More than 80 crafts vendors have been invited to display and discuss their traditional work with festival patrons. Craftspeople are expected to display beadwork, baskets, cowhide chair covers, alligator jewelry, Pysanky eggs, Native American crafts, and pottery. Other expected craftspeople will display needlework, wood carvings, handmade toys and dolls, paintings, sculpture, homemade soap, spinning and weaving, handcrafted knives, handmade brooms, walking sticks, folk art quilts, and more.

A Silent Auction will be held from 9:00am 3:00pm inside Prather Coliseum. Items for the Auction will be donated by various craft vendors. Revenue from the Auction will be used to pay for some of the many festival expenses. Participants must be 18 years or older to bid, and must be present to win.

The 44th Annual Natchitoches-NSU Folk FestivalThis year’s official Folk Fest t-shirt features the Clementine Hunter painting “Dancin’,” and is available for pre-order by emailling [email protected] with the subject line “T-Shirt Pre-Order”. T-shirts will also be available at the Festival in the Folk Life Country Store along with shirts from past festiavls, CDs, and much more!

KidsFest will be available from 9:00am to 4:00pm.  KidsFest is an area dedicated to child-friendly activities and is a fun way for children to examine their own cultural and family traditions as well as those from around the state. Admission to KidsFest is free for children attending the festival.

The 44th Annual Natchitoches-NSU Folk FestivalNarrative sessions will be held in the festival N-Club Room from 10:00am to 6:00pm and feature presentations on Delta music, Day of the Dead celebrations, music preservation, Native American traditional songs and dances, and Louisiana French narratives, with music informances on the blues with Sonny Gullage and the Blues Groovers and gospel music with The Zion Harmonizers. ASL interpretation, assistive listening devices, and audio description for these cultural discussions will be made available upon prior request. For a full schedule of events, as well as registration forms to participate in the Louisiana State Fiddle Championship and the Jambalaya Cook-off go to louisianafolklife.nsula.edu, contact the Louisiana Folklife Center at (318) 357-4332, or email [email protected].

Support for the festival is provided by grants from the Cane River National Heritage Area, Inc., the City of Natchitoches, the Louisiana Division of the Arts Decentralized Arts Fund Program, the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, the Louisiana Office of Tourism, the Natchitoches Historic District Development Commission, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, the Shreveport Regional Arts Council, and the State of Louisiana.

The 44th Annual Natchitoches-NSU Folk FestivalThe family-oriented Natchitoches-NSU Folk Festival is fully wheelchair accessible. Children 12 and under are admitted free. Tickets are $10.00 at the door for all events, or $6.00 for an evening pass to all events after 5:00pm. For complete festival details, please visit www.nsula.edu/folklife. Please RSVP to the Facebook event and invite friends by searching “Natchitoches NSU Folk Festival” on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter at @NSUfolklife.