Folk Festival has over 400,000 attendees over 5 years in Salisbury

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Salisbury Independent

The City of Salisbury and the National Council for Traditional Arts have announced final attendance estimates for the National Folk Festival’s multi-year residency.

Over the five years of the partnership from 2018 to 2022, including four in-person presentations of the festival, over 400,000 people visited Salisbury town center to watch the event.

“Never in the history of Salisbury has an event drawn so many people to our city, right in the heart of the city center, until the National Folk Festival,” Mayor Jake Day said. “This festival forever changed Salisbury and cemented our footing in the arts and culture space. We are proud to have been the place where some 400,000 people gathered to sing, dance, laugh and learn together – it was the greatest honour.

Each year, tens of thousands of participants filled the streets of Salisbury town centre, shopping in the boutiques of the Plaza and eating in traditional restaurants, while enjoying the art, culture and heritage inaugurated by the National Folk Festival.

“From the beginning, the National Folklore Festival has exceeded all expectations. Its success is felt not only during the weekend of the festival, but throughout the year”, explains Caroline O’Hare, local director of the National Folk Festival.

“The festival has been a catalyst for growing civic pride, new artistic and cultural initiatives and a regional economic impact worth tens of millions of dollars brought about by welcoming more than 400,000 attendees to Salisbury since 2018,” said O’Hare.

“The city, region and country have transformed more dramatically than we could imagine during our tenure with the National Folk Festival in Salisbury,” said NCTA executive director Lora Bottinelli. “The city, local partners, and nationally recognized traditional artists have found themselves navigating one of the most transformative periods in American cultural history as it relates to public space. Experiencing these changes and doing this work with partners based on a shared commitment to moving these events forward for the positive results they generate has been central to our success.

The National Folk Festival was originally due to stay in Salisbury for the usual three years from 2018, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic the town had to act as host for a further two years. The repeated and lasting success of the National Folk Festival in Salisbury would not have been possible without the support and involvement of the local community, including participants, volunteers, staff, donors and sponsors, and even performers and artists like Maryland WERKS, Lurking Class Skate Boutique and Maryland Spirituals Initiative Ensemble.

“Every time this festival has been successful, so has our community,” Day said.

“People from all corners of our city have come together to be part of this festival, whether behind the stage, on stage or in the crowd. The impact goes beyond the festival weekend – it’s about elevating the creativity and culture that already exists in our community,” he said.

Even though the National Folk Festival moves to a new host city, the music will continue to play right here at home. Following the pattern of previous National Folk Festival host cities, Salisbury will host the Maryland Folk Festival, a similar but brand new festival for our city and state.

“The Maryland Folk Festival is an exciting new chapter for our community and I feel very fortunate to be a part of it,” said O’Hare, who is now Events and Culture Manager for the City of Salisbury. “Attendees will have the opportunity to discover world-class musicians, dancers, storytellers, artisans and more. As the National’s legacy festival, we will continue our mission to produce a free, large-scale multicultural event that highlights the diverse traditions, cultures and arts of Maryland and the country. The impact of the festival is underscored by our commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion, as we proudly state – all are welcome to Salisbury.

Dates for the 2023 Maryland Folk Festival will be announced on the City of Salisbury, Maryland Facebook page and on the Maryland Folk Festival website in the coming weeks. To sign up for Maryland Folk Festival email updates, please visit mdfolkfest.com.

Because there are no fixed entry or exit points for the festival, crowd estimates are made each year by analyzing a number of different data sources. Stage cameras, drone footage, social media interactions and cellphone tracking through the city’s Department of Information Services are the primary means of tallying attendance.

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