BUTTE – Attendees may have been skeptical of the first Montana Folk Festival, but organizers say they were proven wrong.
Mainstreet Uptown Butte’s George Everett said the feedback he received from festivalgoers last year was very positive – some even said it was better than its predecessor, the National Folk Festival, which ran for three years in Uptown.
And, he said, this year’s Montana Folk Festival – which starts Friday – is expected to be one of the largest yet.
Everett said about 25 bands are slated to play at the festival, which remains free. The artists range in genre from Swedish fiddle to rockabilly to Celtic music, with many in between. He said there may be more bands than the previous National Folk Festival, which was canceled this year in Nashville.
It’s difficult to track exactly how many people attend the festival since there are no tickets to count, but Everett said he is expecting about 50,000 attendees per day at the event, up from about 47,000 attendees per day last year and much higher than the 2008 National Folk Fest, which averaged about 25,000 per day. Twenty-four percent of festival attendees last year who responded to a survey said they were from out of state, and Everett said he is expecting an even bigger number this year.
On Friday, Everett said crews were on track for Butte’s first festival of the summer.
He said attendees will find the same music styles associated with the folk festival, including bluegrass, zydeco and folk from around the world. But this year’s performers have not been heard before at the Montana Folk Festival.
“We don’t intend to repeat,” Everett said.
He also noted that organizers have added improvements large and small to the festival.
The Original Mine Yard has seen the biggest change. A permanent stage under the headframe was installed recently, and permanent flush toilets are currently being installed as an alternative to portable toilets, which will also be available around the festival. Hand washing and baby changing stations have also been installed.
Golf carts will once again be on hand to help people who need assistance travelling between stages. The buses ferrying people from the Civic Center to the festival will run as they have previously, at 10 to 15 minute intervals beginning just before the music starts each day.
Everett said the festival has a good volunteer response from in and out of Butte. He said around 700 volunteers have signed up so far for all sorts of jobs, including traffic control, setup and tear down. People interested in volunteering can show up at the Finlen during the festival and sign up for a four-hour block.
Everett said it’s important for people to know beforehand that pets are prohibited by Butte’s festival ordinance, and animal control officers will be monitoring the site. Everett suggested boarding animals or splitting up dog-sitting shifts with friends if necessary.
The Folk Fest will kick off Friday, July 13, at 7 p.m., with an opening ceremony followed by music on three of the six stages. Saturday and Sunday will see performers on all six stages.