Gays Mills folk music and dance festival returns this weekend | Local News


The Gays Mills Folk Music and Dance Festival will be held in Gays Mills from 6th to 8th May. The last time organizers held the festival was on Mother’s Day weekend in 2019.

The weekend kicks off with a square dance at 7 p.m. Friday. There will be 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 Trade Center on the highway. 131.

The Saturday afternoon activities, as well as the evening concert, will also take place here.

Saturday festivities begin at noon with May wreath making 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 Wreath while dancing around the pole starting at 1 p.m.

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.

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And who will it be, you ask? 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 the rest of the country for their spirited renditions of old songs gleaned from old 78 rpm records combined with their renditions to two air fiddles 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 have entertained audiences from the San Diego Folk Festival at the Five Colleges Folk Festival in Massachusetts, to Winnipeg, Canada, and across the sea for 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, as well as 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!

Plus, there will be a silent auction throughout the weekend with great items to help support the folk festival. And the Kickapoo Exchange Natural Food Co-op will be hosting a chili dinner from 5-7 p.m. Saturday across the street at the Mercantile Center.

There will be gospel singing at 11 a.m. Sunday on the banks of the Kickapoo River, weather permitting. And rumor has it that the “Mama Trauma Drama” might 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 voluntary donations.

For more information, call 608-632-2720 or visit the website at The Gays Mills Folk Festival of Music and Dance is a Kickapoo Cultural Exchange project.

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