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2018 International Folk Festival

By Catherine Pritchard 

Been putting off that trip around the world? 

It’s time to schedule it – for the weekend of September 28. What? That doesn’t sound like nearly enough time for such a big trip? 

Relax. You won’t need a passport, expensive plane tickets or even to take time off of work. Just head to downtown Fayetteville where the 40th annual International Folk Festival will be offering up feasts for the eyes, the ears and, oh yes, the taste buds. 

The festival always features a wide variety of multicultural entertainment. This year’s lineup includes high-energy musical performances by a Grammy-winning zydeco band from Louisiana, a hot salsa orchestra from New York City and a highly regarded “electro-trad” group from the Canadian province of Quebec. 

Terrance Simien & the Zydeco Experience will kick things off Friday night with a downtown street dance dubbed the Bon Temps Ball. Playing on a stage at Hay Street and Ray Avenue, the band will bring the spirit of Mardi Gras to the opening festivities. Simien, called a “zydeco master” by Rolling Stone magazine, has toured internationally with his band and has performed with Paul Simon, Dr. John, Dave Matthews and many other artists. The group won the Grammy for Best Zydeco or Cajun Music Album in 2008. 

That’s just the start of the lively weekend. 

Satuday night’s headlining performer, at Festival Park, will be the Williamsburg Salsa Orchestra, an 11-piece group described as one of New York’s hottest bands. The group uses the sultry, percolating rhythms of salsa to interpret non-salsa songs, including indie-rock notables like “Lovesong” by the Cure, “I Turn My Camera On” by Spoon and “Criminal” by Fiona Apple. The combination has proved winning to fans of both types of music. 

Meanwhile, the French-Canadian group Mélisande will bring rhythmic, energizing electronic beats and a modern perspective to traditional folk songs.  

The Williamsburg Salsa Orchestra will perform Saturday evening only. But Terrance Simien & The Zydeco Experience will perform twice on Saturday afternoon at Festival Park in addition to Friday night. Melisande will also perform twice on Saturday afternoon at Festival Park as well as once on the same stage early Sunday afternoon. 

Other performers around the festival will include other musicians, dancers, a mime, storytellers, a magician, a juggler and more. 

For the first time, the festival will have a fireworks show, starting after the Williamsburg Salsa Orchestra’s concert on Saturday night.  

In another first, six rickshaws will be on hand all weekend to offer transportation around the festival for attendees. 

Elsewhere around the festival, you can admire and marvel at the costumes and performances of participants in the always-popular Parade of Nations on Saturday morning. More than 30 countries or cultures are typically represented by local people, usually dressed in cultural garb. 

More than 50 arts and crafts vendors will be at the festival. 

And you can eat your way around the world at the booths that are part of the International Café. Expect authentic, mouth-watering foods from many cultures. 

The festival is hosted by The Arts Council of Fayetteville-Cumberland County. Executive Director Deborah Martin Mintz said the festival celebrates the fact “that the world is our neighborhood. 

“People from all over the world live here and people who live here go to work all over the world.” 

But the festival’s 40th anniversary is just one of the arts council’s milestones this year. The council itself is celebrating its 45th anniversary. 

At an event in July, local leaders praised the council, which says its mission is to support individual creativity, cultural preservation, economic development and lifetime learning. It says it does that through a robust grant-making program, public art, community development partnerships, cultural festivals and new programs and services for creative people who live here. 

State Senator Wesley Meredith, who lives in Fayetteville, said the council is “a vital asset to the community.” 

Larry Lancaster, chairman of the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners, said the council has helped bring in tourists through its work.  

And, he said, its programs provide important ways for people from diverse backgrounds to connect. 

The council’s anniversary-year events will include a special celebration at its Hay Street location on November 8, as well as a slate of exhibitions through the year. 

One of those exhibitions – Contemporary Art Forms by America’s First People II – opened August 24 and will run through October 20. The exhibition will feature the work of contemporary American Indian artists, both local and nationally known. In conjunction with the exhibit, the documentary film “Voices of the Lumbee” will be shown on October 12 at the Arts Council. 

For more information about the International Folk Festival or the Arts Council itself, visit theartscouncil.com.