N.C. Folk Fest Saturday (copy)

Mila Hoyme twirls as she dances to Andre Veloz during the N.C. Folk Festival in Greensboro in September.

Lots of folk this year ... on stage and in the crowd

Judging from the size and reactions of the crowds, we already knew this year’s second annual edition of the N.C. Folk Festival was an artistic success. Now it appears to be a financial winner as well.

Organizers reported last week that both revenues and attendance were up at this year’s festival, held on Sept. 6, 7 and 8.

The Folk Festival increased attendance by 4% this year, to an estimated 156,000. That figure is all the more impressive since the previous year’s festival featured a hometown favorite in Grammy winner Rhiannon Giddens, both as a performer and as guest curator.

Crowds in 2019 also braved broiling daytime temperatures to sample arts and crafts, food and, of course, the music — more than 45 performers on five outdoor stages and in nine indoor venues throughout the center city.

As for revenues, beverage sales and Bucket Brigade donations (collected by volunteers who mingled with audiences) rose by more than 15%.

Chalk it up to community support, including more than 70 sponsors and individual donors. Kudos as well to Festival Director Amy Grossman and her staff for excellent organization and a typically rich and eclectic lineup of performers.

The festival charges no admission, so it must rely on good vibes and good will to sustain itself.

So far, so good.

There have been generous supplies of both.

Yet another argument for Medicaid expansion

North Carolina has seen encouraging progress in its infant mortality rate. But there are lingering concerns as well.

The most recent report from Gov. Roy Cooper’s office cites the best overall numbers in 30 years. The death rate in the state for children younger than 1 year old fell to 6.8 for every 1,000 births in 2018.

That compares to 7.1 for every 1,000 in 2017.

The infant mortality rate dropped in Guilford County as well (from 9.8 in 2017 to 8.5 in 2018) but it is still higher than the state average.

Of even more concern is the mortality rate for African American babies.

Although that number also improved to an all-time low of 12.2, it is more than twice the infant mortality rate for white babies.

Why is that?

It’s not hard to connect the dots.

The leading causes of infant deaths before they reach their first birthdays in the state include pregnancy complications, low birth weights, sudden infant death syndrome, premature births and birth defects.

As state Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen told The News & Observer of Raleigh: “It should come as no surprise that a baby’s health is impacted by the mother’s health, reinforcing why North Carolina needs to expand access to affordable health insurance, reinforcing why North Carolina needs to expand access to affordable health insurance.”

In other words, the state likely would preserve more infant lives if it would expand Medicaid coverage — at essentially no cost to the state. But, for reasons that are hard to defend, most Republicans in the General Assembly still oppose the idea.

So many roads to better lives for North Carolinians intersect at Medicaid expansion. And the GOP keeps blocking the path.

Googling a new job with new knowledge

Here’s a local search engine that’s definitely worth a click:

As part of a national initiative, Goodwill Industries in Greensboro is using a portion of a $10 million grant from Google to help job seekers reboot their digital knowledge.

In its new Digital Skills Center at 3519 N. Elm St., Goodwill shows people how to fine-tune their computer savvy to find work. Or to advance from their current jobs into better positions.

As the News & Record’s Kenwyn Caranna reported last week, there’s an urgent need throughout North Carolina for workers to upgrade their skill sets as the state’s economy continues to transition away from textiles, tobacco and furniture into such fields as logistics, distribution, biotechnology, aviation and aerospace.

It’s good to see more and more of us being equipped to meet opportunity with preparation.

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