Revving Up for the 15th Annual Richmond Folk Festival

RTD Virginia Folklife Area to Showcase “Hot Rods and Hot Licks” in 2019


Sept. 19, 2019 - The Virginia Folklife Program, sponsored by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, is revving up for the 15th annual Richmond Folk Festival with a Hot Rods and Hot Licks program celebrating the Commonwealth’s most skilled and innovative “motorheads”—artisans of the automotive arts.

“Virginians have had an ongoing love affair with automobiles from the start,” said state folklorist Jon Lohman. “In addition to revolutionizing travel, it transformed our very conception of the American landscape and captured the imaginations of young people everywhere.”

Audiences will witness the intricate art of pinstriping, custom form sculpting, bead rolling and stretching, and much more, while getting up close and personal with the prized rolling wonders of local hot rodders and collectors. 

And while we won’t be racing these beauties on the street, speed will definitely be on display, as audiences will be able to witness the complete disassembly and reassembly of a small block Chevy engine in world record time by our own Hot Rodders of Tomorrow national youth champions from Roanoke County Schools.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch Virginia Folklife Stage will also be operating at full-throttle. While Team Vibrant Performance breaks down engines in record times, young contestants will dazzle the judges with their own lightning-quick banjo breakdowns in the 5th Annual Scott Street Five String Finals. As master custom car designer Marty Martino demonstrates the sculpting of whimsical curves on a hot rod’s fins, master Mongolian contortionist Mandkhai Erdembat will bend her own body into equally elegant yet seemingly impossible forms. Much in the way that Virginians turn local lots into cruise ins and drag strips, audiences will marvel at the remarkable artistic expressions and aesthetic cultures that arose from the urban parking lots of Hampton Roads with the dazzling hip hop dance moves of Washington, D.C.-area arts collective Urban Artistry. And just as the greatest custom car artisans combine a deeply held reverence for the past with a burning passion to create something new, the Folklife Stage will feature a diverse range of artists who draw from some of the state’s most beloved traditional musical genres—blues, bluegrass, gospel, and honky-tonk—in a manner that honors tradition yet leaves the indelible stamp of their own imagination and handicraft. 

The 2019 Virginia Folklife Area welcomes the following performers and material culture demonstrators:


  • Bryan Bowers Band (autoharp virtuoso/folk)

  • Danny Knicely (multi-instrumentalist and dancer)

  • Deborah Pratt and Clementine Macon Boyd (oyster shucking champions)

  • Dr. Levine and the Dreaded Blues Lady with Andrew Alli (blues)

  • Frank Newsome (Old Regular Baptist hymns)

  • J Pope (vocalist and lyricist)

  • Legendary Ingramettes (gospel)

  • Linda Lay and Springfield Exit (bluegrass)

  • Mandkhai Erdembat (Mongolian contortion)

  • Urban Artistry (house dance and hip hop)

  • Whitetop Mountain Band (old time)

  • Wild Ponies (Americana)

  • Willard Gayheart featuring Dori Freeman (Appalachian singer/songwriter)

Material Culture Demonstrators;

  • Jack Harris  (Custom Metal Work) 

  • Kent Writtenberry (Autobody Metal Work and Custom Restoration)

  • Tom Van Nortwick (Automobile Pinstriping)

  • Marty Martino (Custom Auto Design and Shaping)

  • Roddy Moore (Curator of Virginia Folklife Area)

  • Team Vibrant Performance: Burton Center for Arts and Technology Motor Sports Team, Chris Overfelt, Coach (Engine Assembly and Disassembly)

The Virginia Folklife Program, a program of Virginia Humanities, is the state center for the documentation, presentation, and support of Virginia’s rich cultural heritage.                           

The Richmond Folk Festival is produced by Venture Richmond Events, LLC in partnership with the National Council for the Traditional Arts (NCTA). Other producing partners include the City of Richmond, Virginia Folklife Program at Virginia Humanities, and the Children’s Museum.

To learn more about the Richmond Folk Festival visit 

About The Richmond Folk Festival 

The Richmond Folk Festival is one of Virginia's largest events, drawing visitors from all over the country to downtown Richmond's historic riverfront. The Festival is a FREE three-day event that got its start as the National Council for the Traditional Arts’ National Folk Festival, held in Richmond from 2005-2007. In the tradition of “The National," the Richmond Folk Festival features excellent performing groups representing a diverse array of cultural traditions on seven stages. The festival includes continuous music and dance performances, a Virginia Folklife Area featuring ongoing demonstrations, an interactive Family Area produced by the Children's Museum, a folk art marketplace, regional and ethnic foods, festival merchandise and more. Additional information is available at

About Venture Richmond 

Venture Richmond is a non-profit organization formed to engage business and community leaders in partnering with the City to enhance the vitality of the community, particularly Downtown, through economic development, marketing, promotion, advocacy and events. Venture Richmond provides enhanced property management services for both the Downtown and Riverfront including; the Clean & Safe program, beautification and landscaping projects and management and maintenance of Brown's Island, the Canal Walk and Belle Isle parking lot. Venture Richmond Events produces Friday Cheers, the 2nd Street Festival, the Richmond Folk Festival, and partners with Sports Backers to produce Dominion Energy Riverrock. Venture Richmond also operates Riverfront Canal Cruises. Both Venture Richmond Events, LLC, and Riverfront Canal Cruises, LLC, are subsidiaries of Venture Richmond, Inc. For more information visit

About the Virginia Folklife Program

The Virginia Folklife Program is the state center for the documentation, presentation, support, and celebration of Virginia’s rich cultural heritage. For more than thirty years, the program has documented the Commonwealth’s music and material traditions and shared those histories through hands-on workshops, performances, exhibitions, audio and video recordings, and apprenticeships across Virginia. For more information, visit 

About Virginia Humanities

Virginia Humanities is the state humanities council. We aim to tell the stories of all Virginians—or, better yet, find ways for people to tell their own stories. We want to connect Virginians with their history and culture and, in doing that, help bring us all a bit closer together. Virginia Humanities is headquartered in Charlottesville at the University of Virginia but our work covers the Commonwealth. Founded in 1974, we are one of fifty-six organizations created with money and support from the National Endowment for the Humanities to make the humanities available to all Americans. For more information, visit

About the National Council for the Traditional Arts

The National Council for the Traditional Arts (NCTA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the presentation and documentation of folk and traditional arts in the United States. Founded in 1933, it is the nation's oldest folk arts organization. The NCTA presents the nation's very finest traditional artists in festivals, tours, international cultural exchanges, workshops, demonstrations and exhibitions, media productions, school programs, and other activities. It works in partnership with communities across America to establish new, sustainable traditional arts events that deliver lasting social, cultural, and economic benefits. For more about the NCTA, visit