Julia Garrity works on her concept for the stage decoration for the Alaska Folk Festival at a friend's North Douglas shop on Thursday. Monday is the first day of a week of live music at Centennial Hall.

Julia Garrity works on her concept for the stage decoration for the Alaska Folk Festival at a friend's North Douglas shop on Thursday. Monday is the first day of a week of live music at Centennial Hall.

Alaska Folk Fest kicks off Monday night

Under a northern lights show in downtown Juneau during the 40th annual Alaska Folk Fest in 2014, mixed media artist Julia Garrity fell in love with the capital city; so much so that she relocated to Juneau immediately after.

“I had no expectation of moving to Juneau at all. I was immediately smitten that week of Folk Fest, and I moved here a week later,” Garrity said.

For this year’s 42nd Alaska Folk Festival, Garrity is thrilled and honored to be making the stage backdrop, which hangs above the musicians at Centennial Hall and helps set the tone for the seven-day music festival.

“It’s going to reflect the local natural setting of Juneau and the spirit of music throughout nature and the community,” she said.

The work is called “Dusk ‘til Dawn,” but Garrity isn’t giving anything else away about what it will look like. She wants festival-goers to be surprised when they enter the hall.

The backdrop is just one aspect of the multifaceted Alaska Folk Festival, or Folk Fest as it’s commonly referred to. The board of directors has been working since August to get everything ready, said board president Erin Hanson.

“Once we hit January and March, it’s a lot of time. I would say for the last month, I’m doing Folk Fest stuff every day,” Hanson said.

Around 150 volunteers help the nine-member board make the festival happen. The week of music, dances, workshops and events is free to the public, but Hanson said the festival actually costs about $50,000 to put on. Most of the cost is paid for through memberships, which start at $15.

Around 145 different acts will perform at Folk Fest this year. Each act comprises any number of people, from solo musicians to 30 people sharing the stage.

One interesting act this year, Hanson noted, has performers from both Hawaii and Juneau.

“We have a whole group of traditional Hawaiian performers. They are musicians but they’re also dance performers. They are recognized experts in the history of traditional Hawaiian music. They have a group of Juneau people who regularly go down to Hawaii,” she said.

Musicians travel from all over Alaska and the Lower 48 to perform at Folk Fest, including the Pacific Northwest, California and the East Coast. Many acts are made up of local Juneau residents.

Local Jeff Brown said he’s been in about 30 Folk Festivals and he loves it, especially the crowd.

“They’re always willing to applaud, even when I don’t give them anything to applaud to,” he said.

As “Daughter & Dad,” Brown is performing this year with his daughter Callie Conerton. The duo is playing with Ed Schoenfeld on vocals and Steve Nelson on piano and vocals Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.

Their set will be satirical song adaptations, like a version of “Eve of Destruction” called “Eve of Reductions.” Brown first wrote the song back in the late 1980s.

“I changed the words around to reflect Alaska’s fiscal crisis back in 1986, and I looked at my notes and it still holds true,” Brown said.

This year’s Folk Fest guest artists are The Carper Family, an Austin-based four piece bluegrass and country band.

“Just amazing harmonies, really great instrumentalists,” Hanson said. “They’re all women. They play really high-energy fun music. They’re also great songwriters. They write these songs that have contemporary themes but sound like old classic country songs or traditional bluegrass sounds.”

The Carper Family will perform at Centennial Hall Thursday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 9 p.m. The group will also play a dance on Friday night at 9:20 p.m. at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center.

The 42nd Alaska Folk Festival kicks off tomorrow at 7 p.m. at Centennial Hall. Music continues during the weekdays starting at 7 p.m. On Saturday and Sunday, music starts at noon and lasts late into the evening with a break between 4 and 7 p.m.

Other events like Coffee & Jam, Songwriters’ Showcase and a family concert are scattered throughout the week. Workshops such as Intro to Norwegian Willow Flute, Family Square Dance and Sacred Harp Singing take place Saturday and Sunday at Centennial Hall.

Suwanna Thai Cafe will be selling food every night of the festival in the courtyard of Centennial Hall. Pucker Wilson’s will be open outside the JACC.

For those who can’t attend the Alaska Folk Festival, KRNN will live broadcast everything that happens on the Centennial Hall main stage on the radio and through a live video web stream.

For a full schedule of performances, a list of jam spots and other information, check out the official Alaska Folk Festival website at www.akfolkfest.org.

• Contact reporter Lisa Phu at 523-2246 or lisa.phu@juneauempire.com.

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