Laurie Lewis, a California bluegrass musician who has been performing for nearly four decades, is the featured guest artist at the 49th annual Alaska Folk Festival that starts Monday. (Photo courtesy of Laurie Lewis)

Laurie Lewis, a California bluegrass musician who has been performing for nearly four decades, is the featured guest artist at the 49th annual Alaska Folk Festival that starts Monday. (Photo courtesy of Laurie Lewis)

49th annual Alaska Folk Festival returns to its familiar roots at Centennial Hall

More than 130 acts scheduled to perform during week of concerts, dances and workshops.

Now that the Alaska Folk Festival is back in the familiar ballroom of Centennial Hall, the new experiences for those showing up will be on stage.

The 49th annual weeklong free-admission festival that starts Monday is back in the cavernous main hall of the convention center after renovations to the building last year resulted in the event being dispersed into the Juneau Arts and Culture Center and Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé. This year the JACC — across the parking lot from Centennial Hall, compared to a 15-minute walk to JDHS — will still host four nights of dances with a variety of bands playing each evening between Thursday and Sunday.

More than 130 acts are scheduled to perform at the venues during this year’s festival, said Meghan Chambers, a member of the Alaska Folk Festival board, in an interview Thursday.

“We’ve had over 170 applications, which is close to a record-breaking year for applications,” she said. “Which is really exciting. A lot of people want to come play.”

This year’s featured guest artist is Laurie Lewis, who’s been performing for nearly four decades beginning in her early 20s. She was a fiddle and vocal contributor on “True Life Blues: The Songs of Bill Monroe” which won the 1997 Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album, and she has been nominated for two other Grammys. Among her other accolades is being named Female Vocalist of the Year at the International Bluegrass Music Awards in 1992 and 1994.

Lewis will appear at the folk festival with her bluegrass band, The Right Hands, and participate in workshops throughout the week.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to have her,” Chambers said. “She’s a legend in California and in the United States as a whole. She’s from California with a really distinguished history in bluegrass and Americana music.…and is known for her powerful voice, her dynamic songwriting and her traditional bluegrass instrumentation.”

Featured among the many dance bands is The Daiquiri Queens from Lafayette, Louisiana. The folk festival’s website describes the band as “gleaning inspiration from early Cajun and Creole dance music, their sound draws you in with fiery accordion, twin fiddling and Cajun French vocals.”

“One of our board members, Josh Fortenbery, has met them or played with them at some music camps down south…and so he pitched them as the dance band this year,” Chambers said.

Also notorious in the dance hall will be a guest caller known as T-Claw who hails from Elkins, West Virginia. As with numerous other guests and performers, he will share his techniques and knowledge during workshops.

There’s a variety of other events at the two venues, as well as elsewhere in downtown Juneau.

A “coffee and jam” gathering is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday at the JACC, which essentially combines a potluck break with an open-stage dance band and callers. A songwriters’ showcase is scheduled from 3-6 p.m. Saturday at Resurrection Lutheran Church, with signups for 10-minute slots starting at 2:30 p.m.

Also, for listeners interested in a different musical jolt, a “side stage” featuring four performers from 6-8 p.m. nightly — and an open stage from 4-6 p.m. — is scheduled Monday through Saturday at The Pottery Jungle at 233 Seward Street. The venue is a partnership with the Juneau Arts & Humanities Council and other entities, with a suggested pay-as-you-can donation of $10-$20 that will be split among the evenings’ performers and help cover production costs.

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

Know and Go

What: The 49th Annual Alaska Folk Festival

When: Monday, April 8, through Sunday, April 14.

Where: Centennial Hall, Juneau Arts and Culture Center.

Cost: Free.

Schedule and other details: akfolkfest.org.

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