One of the most anticipated weekends of the summer is just around the corner for music fans on Ocracoke Island, as the Ocrafolk Music and Storytelling Festival kicks off on Friday, June 3, with three days of music, storytelling, and arts to discover.
The annual festival, which is celebrating its 19th year in 2018, is a vivid collection of more than 50 arts and craft vendors, multiple music performances with 4-5 stages set up around the village, and tons of corresponding entertainment courtesy of storytellers, historians, and local businesses from around the island and beyond.
The ensuing artistic and musical scene infiltrates almost every corner of the village, with multiple activities to entice visitors to stop by and check out the sights and sounds
“It will be hard to miss,” says David Tweedie, Executive Director for Ocracoke Alive, Inc., which orchestrates the event. “I wouldn’t say it takes over the village, but it attracts a lot of people year after year, and is a great way to raise money for the community.”
The proceeds from the annual Ocrafolk Festival goes to Ocracoke Alive, Inc., which is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization with a mission to enrich the Ocracoke Island community by encouraging and sponsoring cultural, artistic, educational, and environmental activities. The organization partners with the school and the community to create special events, exhibits, workshops and festivals, which shine a light on the unique culture of Ocracoke, and which brings this culture to locals and visitors alike in some fairly creative ways. Examples of their initiatives include the launch of the Skipjack Wilma Lee as a venue for performances, talks, and classes, as well as the continuing support of Ocracoke’s own Deepwater Theater.
And the Ocrafolk festival is easily one of Ocracoke Alive’s biggest undertakings of the year.
“The first year we did it, the festival was held on a single day, and it grew and grew from there,” says David. “We then had it for two days over the weekend for first 14 or 15 years, and then we expanded it to a half day on Friday as well.”
This year, for the first time, the Ocrafolk Festival will have ticketed areas with live music and performances, as an effort to raise additional funds for the organization.
“This event has been near and dear to our hearts for a number of years, but it’s also expensive,” says David. “In the past couple of years, we’ve cleared $1,000 off a $65,000 event, so we knew we had to change the formula and make people aware that the purpose of the event is to enable us to create programming that is not created in any other way on the island.”
“It’s a critical arts program in our eyes, and we partner with the school and other organizations to bring it to the community.”
Tickets are available for a single day or for the full weekend, and can be purchased on-site at the Box Office tent on School Road for impromptu trips to check out the action. Tickets are $15 for Friday and Sunday, $25 for Saturday, and $50 for a full weekend pass.
“People can still wander the grounds and visit the artisans, but if they want to be in the audience areas [for shows], they do need a ticket this year,” says David.
And rest assured, you’ll get a lot of entertainment bang for your buck.
Roughly 18 bands and musicians are slated to perform over the course of the weekend, and the festival will also feature six storytellers and characters, dozens of art and food vendors, kids’ activities, and so much more at various locales throughout the village. (It really is a lot to keep track of, so interested attendees will want to peruse the schedule at https://www.ocracokealive.org/schedule.html.)
“It’s not a huge festival like you’d find in a big city, but for us it’s pretty big,” says David. “We usually expect about 3,000 – 4,000 people for the event every year.”
And this influx in the local population – as well as the multiple and corresponding activities – certainly requires a lot of behind-the-scenes work.
Ocrafolk Festival has more than 200 volunteers who assist with various portions of the event, and who are the backbone of the festival. “We couldn’t do it without the volunteers. They make it happen,” says David.
The volunteers include locals as well as longtime Ocracoke fans who have attended the festival for years, and who want to lend a hand.
“We have quite a few volunteers who have been coming for a long time, and we consider them our extended family,” says David. “It’s a vacation for them, and it’s fun, but it gives you a different sense of meaning and a different sense of Ocracoke Island. You get to feel like you’re a part of the community.”
David also credits the sponsors for the success of the event, which provide a substantial amount of funds to keep the shows going. “Almost half the money needed to run the festival come from folks who sponsor the event,” says David. “We could not have the festival without their help.”
And for newcomers who may drift over the festival for the first time this year, expect a unique atmosphere that’s rippling with activity, and which can be enjoyed by all ages.
“It’s a very family friendly environment. The style of music is folk, blues, and Americana for most of the performers that we have, in addition to the storytellers, artisans and other activities through the weekend,” he says. “It’s one of the most popular weekends on the island, and for [folks] coming to Ocracoke, it will be easy to find.”
To find out more about the Ocrafolk Festival on June 1-3, visit https://www.ocracokealive.org/general-info-and-tickets.html.