Monday, October 6, 2008

No distance too great, no pole too high

RICHMOND, Va. (Sunday, October 5) – One thousand miles is not too far to come to help a friend start a new phase of its life.

Richmond is about to embark on a new adventure – the Richmond Folk Festival – and the friends traveling here to help see to the launch include hundreds of volunteers and contractors.

James River
Preparations have been under way for little more than a week to prepare the Brown’s Island area for the tens of thousands of visitors eager to experience new frontiers of performance, craft, and food.

Organizers of the Richmond festival hope to build upon the three years of success of the National Folk Festival, which had been held here the previous three years.

While the national festival has moved on to Butte, Mont., the Richmond Folk Festival features the same production partnership, Venture Richmond and the National Council for the Traditional Arts, which has been assisting with the National Folk Festival and succeeding festivals in its previous and current host cities.

Randy Jones pulls a tent wall out of the truck.Success depends on contributions from many sources: dozens of corporate sponsors, city and state government agencies, community organizations, local media, and people -– lots of people. More than 1,000 volunteers will be needed. Some of the tasks that make the festival possible, however, require contractors, some coming from as far away as Canada.

Matt Tabor takes a (short) break.Randy Jones and Matt Tabor are part of the Canadian contingent. The two men work for Commercial Tent Rentals & Sales Ltd. of Sussex, New Brunswick, Canada. They and the rest of the Commercial Tent crew drove more than 1,050 miles, arriving on October 2 to begin setting up tents on the site -- including those of the Wachovia/Wachovia Securities Stage and Richmond Times-Dispatch Dance Pavilion on Brown’s Island, the tents of the MWV Folklife Area and Stage at Tredegar Iron Works, the Genworth Foundation Family Area and Stage up the hill from the Tredegar works, and a number of vendor and information tents throughout the site.

As he and Tabor searched the contents of a tractor-trailor Sunday afternoon for an appropriate color wall partition to use on one setup, Jones estimated they have nearly 100 tents to raise by Friday.

“The biggest ones are on Brown’s Island. They are 80 by 120,” Jones said, “and our smallest ones are 10 by 10. Everything in between –- I would say our average tent is 20 by 20.”

Jones further estimated that their crew had about two thousand pieces in all to assemble – about 130 sections for the tops, about 200 sections for the walls, more than 500 legs, and an unknown number of joints, fasteners, ropes, and other parts.

Dave Jones hangs the lights.
Jones and Tabor weren’t the only ones hard at work. Richmonder Dave Jones, Hanover County resident John Pirro, and Catonsville, Md., resident Jim Burns were stringing lights in the Wachovia/Wachovia Securities tent. Jones rode the top of a scaffold on wheels while Burns and Pirro pushed him from one tent pole to another so that he could hang the lights out of reach of this weekend’s crowd.

A flag marks the spot.Elsewhere, people were staking out the locations of vendor tents near where the Ukrop’s/First Market Bank Stage will be set up. In the grassy area along Second Street, a very tall, straight wooden pole lay above the ground, propped up upon Jersey barriers. The pole will soon be lifted up -– from its top members of the Tezcatlipoca Voladores will perform their “Flying Man” Sundance. One look at the scale of the pole and one knows their performance is a must-see.

It is bigger than it looks.

BLOGGER’S NOTE: Please come back and revisit these pages over the next few days. Each day before the festival begins, I will write about preparations and post information about what to expect after the festival begins.

Each day of the festival, I will post as often as possible, sharing news of hot performances, good food, interesting workshops, and maybe even write about what some of you think about each day’s events.

I look forward to seeing you on the Internet – or even better, at the festival!


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