The Kentuck Festival of the Arts will return after a pandemic year of its fall collage of sights, sounds, flavors and textures for tens of thousands of people walking, shopping and playing in Kentuck Park.
Given the COVID-19 sweep, the Kentuck Art Center in downtown Northport generated what it could last fall, hosting a virtual market from October 2020 to December 31, seeking to help hundreds of artists to make up for lost income from what, for many, would have been among their biggest weekends of the year.
So build on the roots of the 1971 Northport Heritage Street Fair and consider last year’s online event as the 49th, October 16-17, 2021, is celebrated as the 50th annual arts festival. of Kentuck.
Some differences will be apparent: masks will be required from everyone in the field, when not actively eating or drinking, and in the event shuttles. Artists’ booths will be more spaced and patrons will be encouraged not to hurry in or around. A mobile medical unit managed by doctors certified by the board of directors will be on the festival grounds to offer free doses of Pfizer vaccine.
Even toilet rows will diverge from the norm, with some portable toilet trailers containing sinks for hand washing. Other cleaning and disinfection stations will be distributed throughout the park.
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Beyond that, however, expect the traditional elements of a Kentuck weekend: fabric, fiber, steel, wood and canvas, splashed with color, twisted into larger-than-life dimensions, rigged by the manual work of demiurgic imaginations.
A marked change to the 50th anniversary pays homage to a much loved storyteller, folklorist, journalist and “ghost lady”: Saturday at noon, the Kentuck will dedicate its oral creation area to the Kathryn Tucker Windham Stage.
As the underdog artist Reverend BF Perkins, for whom the musical Brother Ben Stage is named, Windham was one of the early contributors to the festivals which, nurtured by Kentuck’s founding director Georgine Clarke, have become a regional pride. , nationally recognized, in writing for National Geographic Traveler, Southern Living, American Style magazine and Smithsonian Magazine. The successes of the festivals gave Clarke the leverage to create the art center, with year-long programming, artist studios, exhibition spaces, workshops, outreach programs and more.
In the early years, when there was no actual stage for storytelling, Windham’s name and time of storytelling were nailed to a tree. She wandered around the grounds, with the other 20,000 visitors admiring, handling and sometimes buying works of art displayed at hundreds of stalls, then retired as the children gathered to hear her weaving threads. Although Windham’s prodigious memory may concoct a cornucopia of folklore, the children especially enjoyed hearing the ghost books, starting with “13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey”, so named for the spirit that would haunt his house in Selma.
Family and friends of Windham, who died at the age of 93, in 2011, will help dedicate the stage Saturday at noon, with personal memories, a comb-kazoo chorus, clips from Windham’s performance, readings of his work, and more.
Local and regional poets and writers will perform on stage, including Alabama Poet Laureate Ashley M. Jones, Executive Director of the Alabama Writers’ Forum, Jeannie Thompson, members of the Pure Products Reading series and Reading, a group led by the University of Alabama’s Faculty of English, and more.
The Brother Ben music scene will feature roots ranging from jazz to gospel, funk to folk, string ensemble to string orchestral music. The schedule:
SATURDAY OCT. 16
• 9:30 am-10:30am: Ray Reach Trio. Reach is a pianist, singer, educator, and director of student jazz programs for the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame. Also an accomplished guitarist, arranger, composer, conductor and music producer, he is best known for jazz, but also works in pop, rock, R&B, soul and classical. www.rayreach.com.
• 11 am-12pm: John Calvin Abney. Abney is a singer-songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist from Austin, Texas who has worked with John Moreland, Samantha Crain, Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires, and others. www.johncalvinabney.bandcamp.com.
• 12:30 p.m. to 1:45 p.m.: Red Dirt Boys. A group consisting of Will Kimbrough, Chris Donohue, Phil Madeira and Bryan Owings, also known as the backing group of Emmylou Harris, who named the ensemble. She appears as a guest on the group’s albums, “Red Dirt Boys” 2019 and “The Real Deal” 2021. www.reddirtboys.bandcamp.com/album/red-dirt-boys.
• 2.15pm-3.30pm: CJ Chénier. Grammy nominated, Chenier plays Zydeco and blues on the accordion, having performed alongside world famous artists such as Paul Simon, Joe Sample, Ray Parker Jr. and his father Clifton Chenier, known as the King of Zydeco. www.officialcjchenier.com.
• 3:45 p.m. – 5 p.m .: Café Noir. A retro funk and soul group based in Muscle Shoals, founded in 2017 by CJ Anderson. www.coffeeblackal.bandcamp.com.
SUNDAY OCTOBER 17
• 10 am-11am – UA String Ensemble. Classic sounds from the University of Alabama School of Music. www.strings.music.ua.edu/ensembles.
• 11:30 p.m. to 12:30 p.m. – Amy McCarley. Huntsville-based singer-songwriter, frequent visitor to the Bama Theater and its Acoustic Night performances, McCarley has recorded three studio albums, the latest of them titled “MECO”. www.amymccarley.com.
• 1-2.15am: Fairfield Four. Founded in 1921 by Fairfield Baptist Church in Nashville, member of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame and recipient of three Grammys, the Fairfield Four has worked with Dolly Parton, John Fogerty, Amy Grant, Vince Gill and many others. The band members appeared as singing gravediggers in the Coen brothers’ film “O Brother Where Art Thou”, performing “Lonesome Valley”, which is also featured on the film’s soundtrack album, platinum record and winner. of a Grammy. www.thefairfieldfour.com.
• 2: 45-4: Red Mountain Yellowhammers. Formerly known as Red Mountain, it is a five-piece string orchestra playing old-fashioned blues and country, conducted by Jim and Joyce Cauthen on violin and guitar, with Phil Foster on mandolin , Nancy Jackson on bass and Jamie Finley on banjo and harmonica. . www.sites.google.com/site/redmountainstringband.
The 50th Annual Kentuck Arts Festival will feature over 250 performers, live music, spoken word performances, children’s activities, folk and contemporary craft demonstrations, food trucks and craft beers local.
The park does not accept pets; only registered assistance dogs will be allowed to enter the festival. Parking is free, in and around the park, or in downtown Northport. Regular shuttles will run from the city center to the park, although this is also a fairly short walk.
For people in wheelchairs, accessible parking spaces will be marked near the front of the park and accessible washrooms will be at the front, in the information kiosk. Most of the artist stalls can be found on the cobbled path that circles Kentuck Park, but there can be some tricky spots. Kentuck staff mark roots and roughness with gloss spray paint for better visibility.
The festival will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on October 16 and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on October 17 at Kentuck Park, 3401 Fifth St. in Northport.
Admission is $ 10 for a day pass or $ 15 for a weekend pass. Children 12 and under will be admitted free. For more information, see www.kentuck.org.