May-June 2007

Support Your Local Folk Festival

By Ross Altman

Photo of Crooked Jades
The Crooked Jades
Photo by Cesar Rubin

In the summer of 1927, Babe Ruth was on his way to hitting 60 home runs, Charles Lindbergh had just flown solo across the Atlantic, Ralph Peer discovered the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers, and the rhododendrons were blooming in Asheville, North Carolina.

The Asheville City Council decided to have a rhododendron festival to celebrate their favorite local attraction. Only it didn't turn out to be the flowers. They asked Asheville's old-time banjo player and folk song collector Bascom Lamar Lunsford - The Minstrel of the Appalachians - to invite a few of his musician friends to liven up the festival, and suddenly a new tradition was born: The Great American Folk Festival.

If the name Bascom Lamar Lunsford doesn't ring a bell, you have probably sung his songs. He wrote Good Old Mountain DewI Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground.


So when you make your plans for May 5, the day of the 27th annual Claremont Folk Festival, and May 20, the 47th annual Topanga Banjo and Fiddle Contest and Folk Festival, and June 22-24, the 25th annual CTMS Summer Solstice Festival of Traditional Music, Dance and Storytelling, remember that you are doing more than supporting your local folk festival, you are participating in an American ritual that is now 80 years old.