What an incredible weekend on the Virginia Folklife Stage at the Richmond Folk Festival! Record crowds watched from the edge of their seats as some of Virginia’s most talented musicians and artists competed in a wide range of folk traditions. This year’s Virginia Folklife Area at the Richmond Folk Festival, curated by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities’ Virginia Folklife Program, showcased diverse contest traditions from across the Commonwealth.
The contestants were chosen based on their previous success in their field, as well as through years of fieldwork by the Virginia Folklife Program. The results were nothing short of dazzling. Sunday’s Old Time Fiddle contest featured contestants ranging in age from 10 to 87. The Step Competition brought members of six fraternities and sororities from Virginia colleges and universities, who nearly took down the stage with their powerful, athletic, highly coordinated syncopated steps. Oysters were shucked, hot dogs were scarfed down, and turkeys were called. And, as entertaining as these contests were, they weren’t simply exhibitions—the contestants battled for some serious prizes, including homemade instruments built by some of Virginia’s finest luthiers: Wayne Henderson, Gerald Anderson, and Richmond’s own Don Leister.
Virginia’s material craft traditions were in fine display as well. A colossal quilt show, featuring seven chapters of the Richmond Quilters Guild, invited visitors to offer their “Viewer’s choice.” The Virginia Folklife Area was also home to one of the festival’s greatest attractions, the spectacular homemade Caribbean Carnival Costumes of Earl Blake and his family, which, when paraded around the sunshine of the Tredegar Bluestone on the beautiful RFF waterfront site, stood more than 15 feet high and 25 feet in diameter.
Winners of the Virginia Folklife Area Contests were:
1. Chase Johner, Marion
2. Aaron Williams, Blacksburg
3. Ryan Blevins, Chilhowie
1. Eric Hardin, Jefferson, N.C.
2. Brandon Davis, Independence
3. Aaron Williams, Blacksburg
1. Delta Sigma Theta, Virginia State University
2. Sigma Gamma Rho, James Madison University
3. Alpha Phi Alpha, Virginia Union University
1. Nate Leath, Natural Bridge
2. Erika Godfrey, Mt. Airy, N.C.
3. Erynn Marshall, Galax
Viewer’s Choice: Quilt Show
Shelia Harlin, Quilt # 3 titled “Stars Around My Garden,” Hospitality Quilters
Hot Dog Eating Contest:
Bobby Stultz, Mechanicsville – 11 hot dogs
Oyster Shucking Contest:
Deborah Pratt defeated Clementine Macon