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KC Folk Festival Sunday To Be Free ‘Peoples’ Fest’

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Downtown is the center of world folk music this weekend with a major conference of the Folk Alliance International at the Westin Crown Center and a free, public music festival Sunday (May 22, 2022) at Washington Square Park.

The city has been home to the Folk Alliance since 2013 and several conferences attracting hundreds of musicians and others have been hosted previously at Crown Center.

It’s described as is the world’s largest gathering of the folk music industry and community. Genres include Appalachian, Americana, Blues, Bluegrass, Celtic, Cajun, Global Roots, Hip-Hop, Singer-Songwriter, Spoken Word, Traditional and Zydeco, according to the Folk Alliance website.

After a hiatus caused by the Covid pandemic, this year’s conference is back to its familiar routine of musicians jamming in hotel rooms when they’re not performing on the event stage. This year’s theme is “Living Traditions.”

It also will celebrate the bicentennial of the State of Missouri.

“The hand-stitched artwork for the 2022 conference is a nod to traditional folk art, the history of reference to birds in traditional songs, the concept of musical migration, and is a depiction of the Missouri State bird as it relates to the bicentennial,” according to the release.

While there are limited opportunities for outsiders to participate in the Folk Alliance conference that began Wednesday, the Sunday Kansas City Folk Festival is intended to be a community celebration featuring musicians here for the conference.

It’s also the first time it’s run by a new non-profit established in January.

“The Folk Alliance had this as a public engagement event in 2016 and this is the first time for a community organization,” said Mikal Shapiro, a spokesperson for the Folk Festival.

“They’ve opened up programming on Sunday to allow a passing of the torch to us.”

Performers scheduled include Charly Lowry, a North Carolina singer-songwriter; Elexa Dawson, a singer-songwriter from the Flint Hills and Potawatomi activist and educator, and Nina Ricci, a Nashville artist described as a “new guard” of the American folk music revival.

The event goes from noon until 6 p.m. at the park which is located across from Crown Center. People are encouraged minimize their impact on the park by following the camping motto “Pack it in and pack it out.”

There will be a grassroots craft fair, local farmer’s market, live painting, craft and music demos and storytelling. Two food trucks, one selling barbecue, the other a wide variety of other food options, will be on site.

“It’s a peoples’ fest, very grassroots and family and Earth friendly,” Shapiro said. “It’s a way of bringing neighbors together from across the metro and enjoy a beautiful day in the park.”

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