By Connie Leinbach
Rob Sharer, leader of Craicdown, a mainstay band at the Ocrafolk Festival, thinks the weekend event is kind of miraculous.
“Everyone who is here—audience and musicians alike–had to go through a long journey to get here,” he said in an interview between performances. “So they want to be here. These are hard core music fans and that ratchets up the energy.”
Throughout the weekend, the musicians mix and mingle and create new sounds.
“So, you’ll get a blues solo on an Irish flute,” he said with a laugh.
This annual event presented by the nonprofit Ocracoke Alive is held the first full weekend in June along School Road and Howard Street.
Sidya Cissokho of Senegal, who was with the band Kaira Ba, a world rhythms band, gushed about their Saturday night show in Community Square.
“That was the best show we ever did,” he said, noting the band has been playing for more than four years. “The love of the people, the food, the hospitality,” is what also contributed to the band’s good experience.
“They were one of my stand-out bands,” said B.J. Oeschlegel about the band.
Festival Director David Tweedie said the addition of the cultural groups, such as Kaira Ba and Los Tarascos de Michoacan from Mexico, added a new element and buzz.
“That was exciting,” he said, “along with the new, younger bands, such as The Blue-Eyed Bettys and the Yes Team.
Most festival-goers note that the smallness of the venues allow for a more intimate experience with the bands.
“Most festivals are out in a big field,” said Tom and Mary Whelan of Washington, N.C. “We can see everything.”
Along with storytelling and bands at several locations throughout the island, the festival has activities for children, such as fish painting, juggling with Jef the Mime, and a chance to witness Jim Alberti’s Flea Circus.
“How many of you have fleas at home?” he asked a group of kids and adults at his introduced his “performers,” such as Paddy O’Reilly Shaunessy, who gets shot out of a cannon, and Dardanelle, the high diving flea.
More than 30 local and regional fine artists and crafters set up their shops and sell their art, jewelry, wood carvings and more.
“This is the best festival I’ve done in the last three years,” said Mattie Cordie of New Bern who was selling her hand-crafted jewelry. Cordie also had conducted an arts residency, also sponsored by Ocracoke Alive, for Ocracoke School students this winter. “Many of my students stopped by.”
What Karen Casey, a fused glass artist from Durham, likes about the festival is that everyone feels welcome.
“It’s just the right size,” she said. Customers and artists can interact. “People are really appreciative,” she said.
Tweedie noted that a lot of volunteers step up to help out in all areas of the event.
“We appreciate everyone who helped make the weekend a success—the sponsors, the volunteers and the artists who donated pieces for the Friday night auction,” he said.