Ike and Tina. Sam & Dave. Simon & Garfunkel.
Some of the best-loved American music has come from iconic duos. So why not a team-up between a long-standing cultural tradition in Greensboro, the Carolina Blues Festival, and a promising up-and-comer, the North Carolina Folk Festival?
The two events will join forces this year on the weekend of Sept. 11-13.
The Blues Festival is by far the older sibling at 34 years old, while the N.C. Folk Festival was spun off from the National Folk Festival only three years ago and annually attracts 150,000 people to an eclectic array of music and dance in downtown Greensboro. But both festivals boast strong reputations and firm local roots.
And now we know: Both plan to go on this year, together. They’ll unite in September under the banner of the N.C. Folk Festival, but, as the News & Record’s Dawn DeCwikiel-Kane reported this week, the Blues Festival will be featured prominently in promotions and signage.
Foremost, this is a marriage of necessity. The Blues Festival, which originally had been scheduled for May 16-17 at LeBauer Park, had been postponed as North Carolina locked down in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. But a duet would have seemed a good idea even if there weren’t the lingering mysteries and complications of the coronavirus.
To be sure, even a Sept. 11 date is fraught with some uncertainty. For instance, the popular Bookmarks Festival of Books and Authors, scheduled for two weeks later on Sept. 26 in Winston-Salem, has been canceled.
As for this year’s N.C. Folk Festival, it will take on some new wrinkles to accommodate social distancing, among other precautions. Does that mean streamed performances? Spaced seating? No one can say just yet.
“We are evaluating all of our options for presenting the festival,” N.C. Folk Festival President and Chief Executive Officer Amy Grossmann told the News & Record.
“The safety of our patrons, workers and artists is a priority,” Grossmann added. “We are supplementing our existing safety and emergency protocols with pandemic-related precautions, as recommended by the CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the Event Safety Alliance. We are in dialogue with our local public health officials regarding the development and implementation of the safety protocols we develop.”
As near as it might seem in some respects, September may as well be an eternity when it comes to the novel coronavirus. What advances in treatment may have been achieved by then? How far will testing have come?
More certain is the pent-up demand we can expect by September. Just as a generous leap-year calendar (Christmas falls on a Friday this year) was about to provide a perfect Saturday time slot, the city’s annual Fun Fourth Festival in July already has been canceled because of the pandemic.
So has another summer mainstay in Greensboro, the Eastern Musical Festival, which canceled its 59th season of classical music in April.
That means the Folk Festival may represent our next best chance for Greensboro to gather again, as one big neighborhood, for a good time.
For now, we can only hope that the new normal of quarantines and stay-at-home orders will have begun to fade by then.
As for the merged festivals, this is intended only as a one-time thing. We’ll see. For now it’s encouraging to know that both intend to go on in 2020.
When life gives you lemons, make harmony.