Thursday, April 16, 2020

Alaska Folk Fest memories

It's no secret that the Alaska State Library, Archives, and Museum have a great love for and strong connection to the Alaska Folk Festival. What started as a small gathering at the Museum has grown into a multi-venue week of music, workshops, and revelry enjoyed by musicians and music lovers from around the world. Bob Banghart, our former deputy director, has been a driving force behind Folk Fest since its inception.
The silhouette of an angel plays a musical instrument in a starry night sky around the earth
Cover of the program for the 19th annual Alaska Folk Festival in 1993, designed by Bill Hudson. From Alaska State Library Manuscript Collection 118.

Like many in Juneau, we're sorry that the Festival is canceled this year and miss seeing familiar faces come through our doors and share their memories of music in the Museum, so we're taking a walk down memory lane with our collections. The Library's Historical Collections has some phonotape audio recordings from the early festivals, and has an active Alaska Folk Festival memorabilia collection, which grows every year and includes posters, buttons, stickers, programs, a "Folk Fest family album" from 1994, and even some painted backdrop panels created by University of Alaska Southeast students for the 2009 festival. You can see a selection of the programs on Alaska's Digital Archives and some even have notes, comments, and ratings of performances.
Note from Bill and Clarissa Hudson about Folk Fest.
Bill and Clarissa Hudson wrote this note on the 1978 program they found and sent to the Folk Fest organizers in 1994. The Hudsons created many of the iconic Folk Fest posters in the '80s and '90s.

There are also some mysteries about Folk Fest history that even die hard fans haven't been able to help us solve. Did Folk Fest begin in 1974 or 1975? Although the Alaska Folk Festival website says 1975, others (including the Hudsons, see above) say the original concert was in 1974 and the first festival was in 1995. Who were the original Folk Fest performers? Do programs or flyers from 1974 or 1975 exist in someone's attic, basement, or guitar case? If you know the answers to these questions or have early Folk Fest memorabilia to donate, please contact the Historical Collections.
Six men and three dogs in front of a log cabin. One of the men has a guitar and one has a fiddle.
Although these guys were about 70 years too early for Folk Fest, they'd fit right in at a jam session. From Alaska State Library Photograph Collection 44-03-184.

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