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Aug 20

Still Thinking about the Philadelphia Folk Festival

Posted on August 20, 2015 at 1:10 PM by Michael Stokes

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Still Thinking about the Philadelphia Folk Festival

There is nothing more amazing than the Philadelphia Folk Festival set in beautiful Upper Salford Township at the Old Pool Farm.  This is not a statement about just the music at the festival, though it is fantastic.   The real unique and amazing thing about the folk festival comes from its culture and setting.  In a world full of artificial, slick, professionally massaged experiences brought to us a great cost and fanfare, the Philadelphia Folk Festival in Montgomery County consistently delivers a warm and rich experience at very human scale in an ideal setting.  Perhaps that is the reason why the festival just completed its 54th year (51 years in Upper Salford at the Old Pool Farm) and has been named by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the nation’s greatest summer music festivals.  It is also the reason why the Philadelphia Folk Festival is the longest continuously operating folk festival in North America.  The 25,000 /-  people that attend the festival year after year couldn’t be all wrong.

Once again this past year the music was fantastic.  Sitting out on a pleasant Friday evening in August hearing Arlo Guthrie do his 20- minute Alice’s Restaurant – Priceless!   Listening to the politically charged and passionate Bruce Cockburn or getting up to dance to infectious El Caribefunk – Energizing!  Each of the over 100 plus musical acts were just plain great. 

The culture created around the event provides a warm feeling like returning home after a long journey.  As soon as you enter the gate, you receive a magical feeling that you are in a special place.  The festival culture is built upon tradition and the volunteer system used to make it all happen.  Each year, about 2,000 volunteers undertake various jobs from security, food, medical, merchandise sales, production, clean-up, parking, camping, and many other essential services.   Additionally, the festival relies upon their friends including the Godshall family who own the Old Pool farm, the Upper Salford Township Supervisors, Upper Salford Fire Company, Pennsylvania State Police, and several ambulance services and other regional fire companies who all work together to make it happen.   All of the attendees at the festival, as crazy as some of them seem to be, are great people who treat each other with care and respect.  Each year it is easy to make many new friends there because of the openness of the festival goers.

The magic of the festival also has to do with the setting.  While sitting on the hillside and watching the concerts there it is often times hard to imagine that you are located within a large suburban county with over 800,000 residents less than an hour from one of the largest cities in North America.  Yet for the past 51 years the Old Pool Farm has retained its bucolic setting.  Lots of credit for this has to go to the Upper Salford Board of Supervisors and many of their colleagues in the Perkiomen Valley who have worked tirelessly to protect open space and preserve the rural character of the area.  Certainly, the County also deserves a lot of credit for preserving open space and farmland through acquisition and conservation planning in the vicinity of the Old Pool Farm.  Our Perkiomen Trail that borders the festival grounds is a popular feature for concert goers.  So for now, suburbia keeps its distance from the Philadelphia Folk Festival.   The nearest fast food restaurant is still over 5 miles from the Old Pool Farm. 

See you at the festival next year.

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