press release: The last festival was Mother’s Day weekend of 2019! And here it is three years later! Many of us have missed concerts and dances and it will fill our hearts to be able to start again. So get ready. The 28th Annual Folk Music and Dance Festival in beautiful Gays Mills will take place May 6-8.
The weekend begins with a square dance on Friday evening at 7:00 p.m. There will be lively live music with the Folk Fest String Band and guests teaching and calling out the dances: squares, circles, contras, reels, as well as waltzes and polkas. Everyone is welcome, no partner is needed and the dance is open to all ages and abilities. It will take place at the new Community Commerce Center on Route 131.
The Saturday afternoon activities, as well as the evening concert, will also be at this location. Saturday festivities begin at noon with the making of May Crown and an open stage. May wreaths are made of willow branches twisted in a circle then adorned with fresh flowers and then worn as a wreath. There will be an assistant to help you. You can wear your May Crown while dancing around the May Pole starting at 1:00 a.m. What a glorious way to celebrate spring! The open stage is open to everyone with 20-minute slots. The afternoon also includes workshops led by the performers of the Saturday evening concert.
And who will it be, you ask? There will be a beautiful composition. Headlining will be the Volo Bogtrotters, along with Bob Bovee & Pop Wagner and the Dirtbag Darlins.
The Volo Bogtrotters gathered somewhere near Chicago in the mid-1980s. They quickly gained a reputation throughout the Midwest and across the country for their spirited renditions of old songs gleaned from old 78 rpm records combined with their two-fiddle renditions of tunes that Chirps Smith collected from older fiddlers in southern Illinois. days with the Indian Creek Delta Boys. After fifteen years, they called it quits in 2002. Five years ago, the six band members – Fred Campeau (fiddle, banjo, Hawaiian guitar), Steve Rosen (banjo, mandolin, fiddle), Tony Scarimbolo (bass , harmonica), Chirps Smith (violin, mandolin), as well as Jim Nelson (guitar) and Paul Tyler (mandolin, violin) – have joined forces in a reconstituted and rejuvenated version of the band that is better than ever. They will play some old favorites and some soon to be favorites too.
Since 1971, Pop Wagner and Bob Bovee have produced some of the liveliest traditional music around. Pop Wagner, guitarist master of finger picking, violinist and singer, caller of square dancing, purveyor of string tricks and dry humor, lives in Saint-Paul. Bob Bovee, living in rural southeast Minnesota, plays guitar, harmonica, autoharp and banjo, sings and yodels, and is also a comedian and storyteller. Together they entertained audiences from the San Diego Folk Festival to the Five Colleges Folk Festival in Massachusetts, to Winnipeg, Canada and across the sea on four tours together in Europe. A Wagner-Bovee performance typically includes a generous dose of authentic cowboy songs, plenty of square dance tunes and other instrumental numbers, comedic and sentimental southern songs, and maybe an original or two. The two are likely to also drop a cowboy poem and some of Pop’s lariat rotation, along with history, folklore, and jokes.
The Dirtbag Darlin’s are an acoustic duo specializing in old-school duet singing, Hannah and Aviva combine their early love of early music and their eclectic taste in old country and western, classic bluegrass and traditional blues to create a entertaining and diverse repertoire. These multi-instrumentalists cut their teeth in old-school string bands playing fiddle, guitar, banjo, bass, and more. Over years of traveling together, making music on street corners and on stages from Virginia to Washington, Hannah Johnson and Aviva Pilgrim have honed their vocal harmonies and tight instrumentation. Now, after several years of pursuing other interests and surviving a pandemic, Hannah and Aviva are back for their reunion gig at the Gays Mills Folk Festival!
Additionally, there will be a silent auction throughout the weekend with interesting items to help support the folk festival. And the Kickapoo Exchange Natural Food Coop will be hosting a chili dinner Saturday night from 5-7 p.m. across the street at the Mercantile Center. There will be a Sunday morning Gospel Sing at 11:00 a.m. on the banks of the Kickapoo River, weather permitting. And rumor has it that the “Mama Trauma Drama” may make an appearance afterwards. So many good things!
Also be sure to check out concurrent Gays Mills Spring Festival events including vintage tractors, rodeo and pancake breakfast and more at
Tickets for the Saturday night concert are $15. Saturday afternoon activities, Friday night dancing and Gospel singing are free gifts. For more information, call (608) 632-2720 or visit the website http://www.gaysmillsfolkfest.org/. The Gays Mills Folk Festival of Music and Dance is a Kickapoo Cultural Exchange project.