Saturday, June 2, 2012

ABQ Folk Festival — 24 hours of Joy

Officially, the  Albuquerque Folk Festival began today at 10 o'clock today — a one-day blast of singing, yowpping, workshopping, eating, playing, fiddling and just plain having fun. In fact the woman at the teller window of the Albuquerque International Balloon Museum which is hosting the event flat refused to sell tickets before 10. Never mind they could be bought in advance elsewhere.

Dueling banjos at the ABQ Folk Festival
Not to worry. The real festival began last night in the free camping area.

There may have been 200 or so of us at the most. But what made it fun is that about half were musicians. Real Musicians. Talented Musicians. And they came to play.

They set up venues at two different makeshift locations . By 4 o'clock the fun had begun and lasted until midnight.

Much of it bluegrass. But there were smatterings of cajon, Irish, Israeli, American blues and traditional folk songs.

Players came and went trundling in a wide assortment of instruments. Anyone and everyone who could play was invited to join in. Many did.

Those of us less talented sat around in chairs and listened, tapped our feet or began singing. Food was potluck. Mellowness pervaded. A three-quarters full moon looked  down on the dark campground.
Fiddle with a soulful wail 

The Albuquerque Folk Festival had its origin 14 years ago as part of an arts on the park program. Gradually it took on its own life, with a nonprofit board of directors and a host of volunteer members. In recent years it has been held at the state fairgrounds. This is the first year at the balloon museum.

Tickets are $20 but it doesn't take much to get in free. Anyone showing up can do three hours of volunteer work at the festival and enjoy free admission and a t-shirt. Or be (or claim to be) a musician and walk in free.

Admission pays for only about a fourth of the cost, I was told. Most of the rest comes from supporting grants. Costs are kept low by relying on volunteers for everything — as many as 700 this year doing everything from promotions, scheduling and printing up the elaborate guide.

Hammered dulcimer needed constant tuning
There are vendors, to be sure, but it is not a big money-making event. Festival t-shirts sell for just $10. If you don't need a 2012 edition you may purchase three "venerable" t-shirts from previous years for the same $10 price.

Mostly the vendors sell food, drink and a smattering of jewelry, creams and such.

It is a true participation festival. There are no stages. There are bands, to be sure, performing in tents and rooms inside the building. Sometimes as many as eight to ten events go on simultaneously, mos of the audience participation

These are not just singalongs. Musicians wander  freely from one performance to the next. The distinction between audience and performer  blurs.

The result is something special. Our roots, our heritages are in our music. When several thousand folks come together to play, to sing, to share we're just hearing hearing America sing. We're singing along with her. And it really feels good!

Bass player lost in his music

Beth Sabinal -- half of the Sabinal Sisters

Meanwhile, south near TorC  the Gila National Forest fire has consumed 227,000 acres and is now the biggest fire ever in New Mexico. The smoke has left skies ashen and mountains shaded gray. A few nights ago the half moon high in the sky shown an ominous orange. Sunsets however are magnificent.

Sundown in Torc blanketed by smoke from the Gila National Forest fire

One of 1200 firefighters battling New Mexico's largest fire
The fire is not considered dangerous. Some 1200 firefighters are battling the blaze.

Although remote from human habitat the rugged Gila Mountains are home to bears, mountain lions, coyotes, lynx, fox, rabbits and a large number of birds as well as rugged pines and mountain shrubs.

The 227,000 burned acres represents about 8 percent of the national forest's 3.3 million acres — making it the sixth largest national forest in the continental United States.


  1. It's always so nice when real musicians meet and perform. Enjoy it, John!

  2. Hate about the wildlife ...

    Rats! Wish this was going on when I was in Albuquerque. I did like that city ... seems I stayed there several night's and wandered all around ... great sunsets and FOOD

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