June 4, 2012

Another great Ocrafolk Festival showcases ‘the spirit of Ocracoke’


It is “the greatest musical weekend in America,” said a visitor this weekend to the 13th annual Ocrafolk Festival.

Jim Austin, whose address is a sailboat, arrived with Bentley Smith Friday night for the community potluck dinner, and they stayed the entire weekend.

“We’ve been to a lot of festivals, and this one is the best,” he said as clear skies and warm sun brought thousands of visitors and locals to the art and music along School Road, Howard Street, and on the Books to be Red and United Methodist Church grounds.

Austin and Smith make their home sailing the Eastern seaboard, from Nova Scotia to New Orleans, and they attend numerous festivals.

They spent the weekend listening to the range of musical groups and storytellers from the region, and meeting many locals and the musicians, which is one of the charms of the festival.

Most of the musicians stay for the entire festival and join each other on stage at times for jams and finales.

“It’s a neat thing to try to create that energy,” noted David Tweedie, festival chairperson and the fiddler with Molasses Creek, the Ocracoke folk band that hosts the festival. “When you have different talents like that coming together, you never know what’s going to happen on stage,” he said.

Tweedie thought that close to 3,000 people attended this year’s festival.  The programming was expanded with the addition of the Workshop Stage on the church grounds.

Bob Zentz, of Norfolk, Va., hosted that stage, which included instruction in stringed instruments of all kinds, clog dancing, guitar styles and sea songs and chanteys.

“Energy from new performers added a spark to this year’s festival,” Tweedie said.

Among those new acts were Jacob Johnson, whom Molasses Creek met at a music conference last June; the Holy Ghost Tent Revival, a jam band; Lizzy Ross, a singer-songwriter from Chapel Hill; Shana Tucker, a jazz-influenced singer-cellist; the Bernie Petteway Trio, a jazz trio, and Carolina Lightnin’ and Banjo Island, both bluegrass bands.

The Ocrachicks, a new concert this year, included many of the female performers at the festival, both headliners and locals, at a packed house in the Deepwater Theater Saturday night.

The festival experimented with a couple of new fundraising activities this year.  One of those was for the Friday-night auction held in the Ocracoke School gym.  Along with several donated items, a new twist this year was called “Out of the Box, “ in which artists (and anyone else) this spring were given a small wooden box and asked to create whatever they wanted with it, said Amy Howard, who coordinated the auction.

“We all were waiting to see what came back after the boxes were distributed,” she said. “Many literally tore them apart.”

The results included a sea turtle created by Warner Passanisi, and one titled “Live Every Week Like It’s Shark Week,” by April Trueblood of Frisco.

Trueblood, who also performed at the festival, was instrumental in spreading the word about the boxes to artists in Hatteras and beyond, Howard said.

Trueblood explained about her box theme that she likes to “peddle the ridiculous.”

“’Shark Week’ (the television show) sounds dangerous, but in order to participate in it you have to sit on a couch,” she said.

Howard said prices for the boxes ranged from $40 to $200 and that the project garnered $5,500 for the festival.

An ongoing online auction on the www.ocrafolkfestival.org website of other items will go live in the coming weeks.

Tweedie hopes successful onsite fundraising from button sales, T-shirt sales, and a quilt raffle will recoup a shortfall in revenues from last year’s festival.

Mark Ravan of Charlotte won the quilt that was handmade by the Ocracoke Needle and Thread Club.

“I was coveting this,” he gushed as he claimed his prize Sunday afternoon. “My bedroom has a South Carolina theme and now it will have a touch of North Carolina.”

Lena Ennis of Newport was among the more than 50 fine artists and crafters, local nonprofits, and food vendors at the festival.

 “It’s absolutely my favorite show during the year,” she said, “and I do about 20 shows a year from Virginia Beach to Charleston, S.C.”

“We are just bowled over by the talent,” said Robin Janes, of Richmond, Va., after the Sunday morning gospel sing in which most all of the musicians perform.

“It just made my heart sing,” noted her friend, Blair Martin.

Charles Hardy of Hardy Moving and Storage in Southern Shores, and a sponsor of the event, said he was bowled over by the talent.

“There are some of the best guitar players in the world here,” he said.

One of those was Humberto Oliveira Sales, of the musical duo Beleza, who, with his wife, Madeline Holly-Sales, made their second appearance at the festival after they made a big splash last year with their Brazilian-flavored music.

“I just love it,” Sales said, between performances.  “I love the atmosphere. It’s very intimate, and the audience is appreciative.”

Rain on Friday left numerous soggy areas on the festival grounds Saturday morning, and rain Saturday night created a bit of havoc with the Saturday night events at Community Square, Tweedie said.

"But otherwise, it was a wonderful coming together of the community,” he added.

Norma Sigal, who had helped at the Friends of Ocracoke Library table on Saturday, said after the music ended on Sunday, “It was the best one ever.  It just showcases the spirit of Ocracoke”

SLIDE SHOW (IPad, IPhone and other non-flash compatible device users)

 Comments are always welcomed!

     Subject :

     Name :  (required)

     Email :  (required, will not be published)

     City :   (required)    State :   (required)

     Your Comments:

May be posted on the Letters to the Editor page at the discretion of the editor.