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Annual Montana Folk Festival rolls into Butte this weekend

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The free Montana Folk Festival is Friday through Sunday in Uptown Butte.
The free Montana Folk Festival is Friday through Sunday in Uptown Butte.

This weekend Uptown Butte transforms itself into a hotbed of music, art, culture and entertainment during the annual Montana Folk Festival. And it’s all free.

The gigantic music festival is Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The theme this year is “Culture of the Car.” Organizers are expecting at least 150,000 people to attend, which makes it the largest outdoor festival in the state.

George Everett, festival director, said the festival committee chose “Culture of the Car” this year because of the importance automobiles have had on the heritage of Montana. “We thought it was time to take a closer look at (the automobile) and focus on it,” he said. “Plus we have a close partnership with the Montana Automobile Museum which has a huge collection of old, antique vehicles.”

Everett said some of the museum’s vehicles will be on display on Park Street, as will several art cars from a coalition organized by Harrod Blank. Blank is a documentary filmmaker and art car enthusiast from California. See a full interview with him on this site soon.

2color-onWhite“Several of the best will be there, about 100 cars or more including an 1888 Benz, a few antique Model T’s and some of the finest that you’ll see at the auto museum in Deer Lodge along with people showing off their vehicles and street rods.”

But while the cars are an important aspect of the festival, it wouldn’t be the Montana Folk Festival without unique, high-quality music.

This year’s festival has more than 20 groups representing a broad range of musical and cultural traditions performing on the festival’s six stages. Some of the highlights include the female Mariachi band Mariachi Reyna Los Angeles, the R&B/soul singer Swamp Dogg, the authentic New Orleans group The Stooges Brass Band, Jamaican Reggae singer Don Carlos, and Chicago Blues performer Lurrie Bell.

To kick off the festival this year, Everett said The Stooges Brass Band will lead a traditional Second Line parade leading people to join them as they march to the Original, the site of the main stage of the festival. Everett said the parade is a combined effort to both help keep things fresh while keeping elements that have worked in past festivals, also.

“We really try to top ourselves each year and try a lot of surprises, too,” he said. “This year, for instance, we have film showings – we’ve never done that before – and that’ll be at the Butte Archives where we’ll show Les Blank’s documentaries as well as Harrod Blank’s films.”

Some of the other changes this year include more Native American art than ever before and a few small adjustments at the Family Area. The Montana Folk Festival website underwent an overhaul recently, too, to help streamline information for people better.

No matter what changes, however, Everett said one thing they’re set on is keeping the festival free for everyone. He said while other folk festivals have started free and eventually became a ticketed event, they’re determined to keep it free for as long as they can.

One big way they do that is by asking for donations and through major sponsors.

“We are going to continue for as long as we can to not charge admission, so in exchange people can look for the red buckets on site and throw in a 10-spot if they can,” he said. “Which goes toward funding help tents, sound systems, booking musicians and all of the other huge expenses we have. If you write a check, we’ll write a letter thanking you individually, otherwise we thank you in advance and after the fact that you’ve helped us pay the bills.”

Some of this year’s sponsors include Montana Resources, the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, Atlantic Richfield Company, the Montana Office of Tourism, Seacast and Imagine Butte, among many others.

George Everett
George Everett

Another fun aspect to the festival is that not only do the musicians come from across the U.S., and the world to perform, the attendees come from all over as well.

Everett said each year they make sure to advertise just as much outside of Montana as they do in-state to attract visitors of all kinds to come see all that our state has to offer.

“We’ve had people from all over the world, really, either coming up to see Yellowstone or going to Glacier and down on their way to Yellowstone,” he said. “We advertise all across the region and our goal is to have more people come from outside of Montana. Whether you’re from Canada, Butte, Great Falls, Helena, Missoula Billings, or anywhere, really, we invite you to come and have a great time.”

For more information on the Montana Folk Festival, including a full schedule of events, visit www.montanafolkfestival.com

Keep checking back to bssbuzz.com for more articles/videos/photos later in the week along with interviews with musicians and artists who are participating in this year’s event.

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