By Connie Leinbach
Fair weather shone on the 18th Annual Ocrafolk Festival last weekend to bring out the crowds to hear great music and experience Ocracoke Island.
“Once again, it was a great way to share the spirit of the individuality of the island,” said David Tweedie, executive director of Ocracoke Alive, which produces the festival. Tweedie also is the fiddler for Molasses Creek. “We were excited the way the weekend turned out.”
The annual event the first weekend in June brings dozens of musical acts from around North Carolina to the island, playing acoustic folk, salsa, bluegrass, world and rock music in a variety of settings, including a workshop stage, late-night jam sessions in the area around the main festival site on School Road and Howard Street as well as Community Square and the Community Center.
For children, there was face painting, fish print-making on T-shirts, Jef the Mime teaching juggling and creating general merriment, the Paperhand Puppet show and parade and instruments from around the world in Bob Zentz’s “Ramblin’ Road Show & Homemade Hootenany Tent.”
This year, dance offerings by the Green Grass Cloggers, Ballet Folklorico de Guadalupano and square dancing were held in the Ocracoke School gym
There were stories by Donald Davis, Rodney Kemp, Philip Howard and an “old song” singalong.
“It’s absolutely the best atmosphere,” said Sue Spencer of Standardsville, Va., who with her husband, Buddy, sat under the live oaks on the Books to be Red lawn at the mainstage Live Oak Stage. “There’s food, drink–something for everyone.”
Among the acts the Spencers enjoyed were Beleeza, the Blue Eyed Bettys and maholoJazz.
The music is the main draw.
“I heard the music and they were like sirens,” said islander Lynn Murphree about the Oak Grove String Band’s set on Saturday afternoon. “I said to myself I gotta go!”
It was lead singer Scott Moss’s voice that drew Murphree to the Live Oak Stage and for the crowd to jump up at the end of the set.
Moss joined the band last year, said his wife, Karen, who said the couple is from Shelby.
Moss, who retired from a band called Big Daddy Love, will nonetheless be fronting for that band again this summer when they appear at Gaffer’s Oct. 13 and 14.
Karen noted, as did others, that what the musicians love about Ocrafolk is the appreciative audience.
“This is a listening festival,” Karen said.
And the musicians appreciate how well they are treated.
“You’re not a number,” said Tommy Brookings, the mandolin player for Oak Grove, about the festival organizers. “They treat you like you’re a Rolling Stone.”
Several musicians visited Ocracoke’s community radio WOVV 90.1 FM to perform and give interviews.
Artists and artisans mostly reported good sales of their jewelry, pottery, paintings, wood carvings fiber arts and more.
“This was my best weekend ever,” said Robin Macek of Wilmington, a jewelry artist.
“Sales surpassed my expectations,” said Keven Erikson of Avon, Dare County, who was selling his hand-crafted, multi-colored wood pieces for the first time with his wife, Tom. “The music is world-class.
Veteran Ocrafolk artisan Martha Johnson, who offers whimsical collage art, said Ocrafolk is her favorite festival.
“And I do a lot of festivals each year,” she said. “The people putting it on are having a good time. It’s a great vibe.”
Next year’s festival will be June 1 to 3. To learn more about the festival and everything Ocracoke Alive does, visit their website here.