Philadelphia Folk Fest celebrates 50 years

SCHWENKSVILLES, Pa. - August 19, 2011

The crowds have converged on Schwenksville for four days of live music, and as the festival celebrates a milestone anniversary, there is no need to worry about this celebration going away any time soon.

It is all about the music at the Philadelphia Folk Festival.

Some fans day trip, others camp out. They will listen and party to music from more than 60 artists of all sorts.

"It's all mixed up, young, old, blues, urban, zydaco," said Julie Hittner, from the Friends of the Festival.

It is the Philadelphia Folk Festival's golden anniversary. Back in 1961, 700 people attended. This year, 3,000 volunteers are expecting 25,000 fans.

As its reputation grew in the 60's and 70's, activist singers like Joan Baez played. Baby-boomer Jack Merrylees attended his first festival in 1971.

"Coming here was total emersion in that kind of counter culture experience for a 14 year old," said Jack Merrylees.

When any institution hits 50, a fair question would be to ask about its future. Can it, will it attract new blood, new fans?

Folks at the festival say it already has.

For every gray beard veteran, there seems to be a teen or a 20-something. There is a long tradition of bringing the kids, and acts appealing to the young are always being sought like New Orleans' Trombone Shorty.

"They are always doing a great job at looking at people that are fresh, and that are on the iTunes charts," said Justin Nordell.

Genevieve Campbell traveled from Houston.

"I think it's because the music is really authentic," Genevieve said.

By definition folk music covers many styles, and its fans come in all ages. The sense at this year's festival is that the love of folk music is alive and well in the 21st Century.

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