The Anchorage band Big Chimney Barn Dance performs in the main ballroom of Centennial Hall on Sunday night near the end of the 49th Annual Alaska Folk Festival. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

The Anchorage band Big Chimney Barn Dance performs in the main ballroom of Centennial Hall on Sunday night near the end of the 49th Annual Alaska Folk Festival. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

49th annual Alaska Folk Festival ends with promise of an ‘epic’ 50th

Weeklong event remains free after nearly a half-century “which is unheard of,” board president says.

The hosts of the 49th annual Alaska Folk Festival offered a bit more than the traditional crowd singalong of “Goodnight Irene” to end the weeklong event on Sunday night, with hints about next year’s landmark anniversary event that already is in the works.

“Next year is the 50th so it’s going to be kind of an epic festival,” said Riley Woodford, a longtime musician who was one of the evening’s two co-hosts. “They’re already starting to plan it. And there are things underway for that.”

“There will be fireworks,” interjected Andrew Heist, president of the festival’s board, as about 30 people among the hundreds in the full ballroom at Centennial Hall climbed onto the stage for the final singing sendoff.

More than 130 acts performed music ranging from guitar soloists to large eclectic costumed ensembles. The festival began Monday with the Alaska Youth Choir singing the state song and featured as the penultimate act guest artist Laurie Lewis — a California bluegrass musician for nearly four decades who participated in performances and workshops all week — doing a nearly 90-minute concert (compared to the 15-minute sets for most acts) with her band The Right Hands.

The festival also used the Juneau Arts and Culture Center as a second main venue for dance events most evenings, with featured bands including The Daiquiri Queens from Lafayette, Louisiana, and a featured guest caller from West Virginia known as T-Claw.

Heist, while offering his final fond wishes before the singing of “Goodnight Irene,” noted the festival as it approaches its 50th year is still an event made possible mostly by volunteers and contributions from supporters.

“We are a free seven-day festival, which is unheard of, and the only reason we can do it is due to support from our members,” Heist said.

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

California bluegrass musician Laurie Lewis (center) performs with her band The Right Hands during the final night of the Alaska Folk Festival on Sunday at Centennial Hall. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

California bluegrass musician Laurie Lewis (center) performs with her band The Right Hands during the final night of the Alaska Folk Festival on Sunday at Centennial Hall. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Buyers and sellers exchange words and equipment during an instrument swap at Centennial Hall on Sunday as part of the Alaska Folk Festival. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Buyers and sellers exchange words and equipment during an instrument swap at Centennial Hall on Sunday as part of the Alaska Folk Festival. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

John Hatton, right, leads a “Crooked Tunes For All Instruments” workshop in the Hickel Room at Centennial Hall as part of the Alaska Folk Festival on Sunday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

John Hatton, right, leads a “Crooked Tunes For All Instruments” workshop in the Hickel Room at Centennial Hall as part of the Alaska Folk Festival on Sunday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Kayla Boettcher, a member of the technical crew for the Alaska Folk Festival, checks with sound engineers as musicians set up for their performance on Sunday night at Centennial Hall. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Kayla Boettcher, a member of the technical crew for the Alaska Folk Festival, checks with sound engineers as musicians set up for their performance on Sunday night at Centennial Hall. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

A near-capacity crowd fills the main ballroom at Centennial Hall during the final night of the Alaska Folk Festival on Sunday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

A near-capacity crowd fills the main ballroom at Centennial Hall during the final night of the Alaska Folk Festival on Sunday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

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