As lovers of folk music and a novice musicians, it was a treat to finally attend this year's ABQ Folk Festival. Though it's been a Duke City summer staple for well over a decade, this year's festival was particularly special, as the event featured a tribute to the late, great Pete Seeger, one of the most notable American folk singers; he passed away earlier this year. The festival kicked off with the AFF Benefit Concert featuring Claire Lynch with opening band, Holy Water and Whiskey.
The event, which took place at the Balloon Fiesta Park, was well-organized with the help of volunteers. Free parking and camping gave the event a community feel, as did the music and dance workshops, art, food, petting zoo, etc. In addition to a variety of different local and national folk acts, the Band Scramble Competition offered the opportunity for musicians from different groups to play together for the first time. Temporary groups formed through a lottery system with just 50 minutes to prepare for a six-minute performance in front of a panel of judges.
Square dance lessons, storytelling, and poetry gave the festival a quality of authenticity that would have made Pete proud and, after prizes were handed out for the Scramble, the tribute to Seeger was quickly in full swing. “For Pete’s Sake” consisted of fervent musicians and fans belting out a myriad of Pete's tunes on and off stage in the spirit of true unity; a proper send-off, indeed.
As we concluded the tribute with our rendition of “Blowing in the Wind,” nature took us a little too literally. Tent pegs were no match for the dusty New Mexico gusts that sent the canvas sailing. The Fire Marshall quickly hammered out danger by moving the festivities indoors. As festival goers continued dancing inside the Balloon Fiesta Museum and the sun was setting, it seemed that the legendary Ramblin' Jack Elliott would not be closing the night. Much to our surprise, not only did he make an appearance, he was cordial and kind, warming us with stories of travel and inspiration. Strangers became friends and friends became family and, as Ramblin' Jack departed for Austin, we were reminded that to every thing, there is a season, and that we would all be eagerly awaiting next year’s Folk Festival. Thank you Albuquerque, thank you Pete, and thank you, Ramblin' Jack!