Philadelphia Folk Festival Plants Digital Roots For 59th Edition

59th annual Philadelphia Folk Festival

Philly Folk Fest To Go Online Aug. 13-16, 2020

“If your time to you is worth savin.’ Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone. For the times they are a-changin.'” – Bob Dylan “The Times They Are a-Changin'”

Just as folk music has evolved over time, the Philadelphia Folk Festival has also changed. For only the third time in its 59-year history, the Philly Folk Fest is changing its location. This year, everyone in the world can attend Aug. 13-16, at the new location, online.

“We hold the honor of being the longest continuously run outdoor music festival in all of North America,” said Executive Director Justin Nordell in a press release. “And, we weren’t about to disappoint our community, especially as countless music festivals and events worldwide are canceling. So, the question became, how do we produce a festival so tied to gathering together in a time where we’re left with no choice but to be apart?”

With its folksy beginnings at the Wilson Farm in Paoli, Pennsylvania hosted by radio DJ Gene Shay and folklorist Kenneth S. Goldstein in 1962, the festival attracted a strong fanbase led by the Philadelphia Folksong Society. From there, the Old Pool Farm, which served as the festival home from 1965 until just last year when David Crosby, Margo Price and Amanda Shires graced the Martin Guitar Main Stage.

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted music festivals across the world and it especially burdened the folk festival and its community. Shay, who still served as host and joke teller at the festival died Friday, April 17, 2020 from complications surrounding Covid-19. This was just 10 days after the virus claimed the life of John Prine, songwriting icon and past festival performer.

In spite of those tragedies, the festival organizers have prevailed with plans for a digital edition of the 59th annual Philadelphia Folk Festival by partnering with Mountain View Staging. In addition to tributes to Shay and Prine, the event will feature festival mainstays including multiple stages, crafts, children’s programming and campfire singalongs.

“It was incredibly important to us to maintain and convey the sense of community that is the hallmark of this event,” said Lisa Schwartz, Festival and Programming Director. “Fest is a place where everyone is welcome and you never meet a stranger. In the midst of all the turmoil that is happening in the world, we think it will be reassuring to come to a setting that can soothe your soul with some incredible music and camaraderie.”

Tickets are available now on the festival website on a sliding scale beginning at $25 per day.

“We’re ecstatic to be able to welcome more people this year than ever before. We recognize that many in our community have been financially affected by the pandemic, so we wanted to make the tickets affordable for everyone,” said Nordell. “This shift to a digital experience dashes geographical constraints and opens our doors in a new way.”