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Richmond, Virginia Breaks National Folk Festival Attendance Record

69th National Folk Festival attracts 175,000 People

October 16, 2007 (Richmond, Va.) – The 69th National Folk Festival, held here October 12-14, attracted 175,000 people, the largest number in the festival’s long history. The previous record of 155,000 was set in Bangor, Maine in 2004. The traveling National Folk Festival is the oldest celebration of traditional arts in the nation and has been held in 27 communities around the country. Richmond, Virginia has been the festival’s 2005-2007 host city, where the event has been presented on Richmond’s historic downtown riverfront.

“Great artists, great audiences and great weather; it was a nearly perfect weekend. And more people than ever – the largest crowds in National Folk Festival history, in fact – were here to enjoy it,” said Julia Olin, executive director for the National Council for the Traditional Arts (NCTA), the organization that brought the festival to Richmond.

The event in Richmond was made possible by more than 1,000 volunteers and countless sponsors and partners who kept the event free to everyone.

"Ukrop's and First Market Bank are very proud to have been a part of this fantastic event,” said Jim Ukrop, chairman of Ukrop's and First Market Bank. “With incredible talent lining Richmond's riverfront and enthusiastic crowds that grew all weekend, it really was a world class event and served as a terrific platform for the 2008 Richmond Folk Festival."

Tim Timberlake, local programming committee member and a volunteer team leader, said, “My biggest joy was to hear and see the passionate response of the audiences at each stage when they realized they’d heard something wonderfully special. I think we’re all feeling pretty proud that something like this could happen here – and will again, with RFF 08!”

“What a wonderful way to cap off our 400th Anniversary Celebration, and to set the stage for the launch of the new Richmond Folk Festival in 2008.” Lisa Sims, events director for Venture Richmond.

It is estimated the largest numbers of attendees this year came on Saturday with about 100,000 people. The number of people who rode festival shuttle buses to get to the festival from satellite parking lots was doubled this year from what it was last year. The festival also doubled its water sales and its beer sales. In addition, all of the festival merchandise was sold out come Sunday afternoon; the majority of it was gone Saturday evening.

“We determine preliminary attendance numbers through a variety of indirect indicators,” said the festival’s technical director Dwain Winters. “We look at the numbers from satellite parking lots and shuttle service along with festival sales such as water and beer and compare these numbers to last year. Experience with crowds and turnover rates also help inform the estimates. “I know the square footage of each stage area,” Winters said, “and can determine the number of bodies that can fit in an area at any given time.”

The site was full of people on Saturday, but attendees were still able to maneuver the multi-tiered site. Lines at popular food vendors were long, but there was always an alternative food vendor with shorter lines, which is what festival organizers aim for. Other than coming close to running out of water and ice on Saturday (which was quickly replenished) due to the impressive crowd numbers, the 69th National Folk Festival went off without a hitch.

“The NCTA is resistant to numbers inflation and does not measure the success of an event simply by the number of people who came, but rather by the quality of each person’s experience,” said Winters. “The growth of this festival in the future should not focus on popping attendance, but rather on maintaining and improving upon its quality.”

Since 1934, the National Folk Festival has celebrated the roots, richness and variety of American culture through music, dance, traditional craft, storytelling and food. The National Folk Festival featured more than 30 artists/groups on seven stages with continuous music and dance performances, along with a Virginia Folklife demonstration area produced by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, family/children's activities produced by the Children’s Museum of Richmond, a folk arts marketplace, regional and ethnic foods and more. The FREE three-day festival is one of the largest in Virginia and draws visitors from across the country.

The festival is presented by Richmond Region 2007 and produced by the National Council for the Traditional Arts (NCTA) and Venture Richmond in partnership with the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, the Richmond Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Children’s Museum of Richmond. Working in close cooperation with the producing partners are The City of Richmond, The American Civil War Center at historic Tredegar, and the National Park Service’s Richmond National Battlefield Park Visitor Center.

In 2008, “The National” will travel to a new city, but Richmond will continue the cultural celebration by presenting its own festival – the new Richmond Folk Festival – with the same commitment to quality and authenticity established by the National. For more information, please visit www.venturerichmond.com or call (804) 788-6466.

 

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