Annie Bartholomew and Miguel Rohrbacher, Juneau artists, kick off the 2022 Alaska Folk Festival to a standing ovation at Centennial Hall on April 4, 2022. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Annie Bartholomew and Miguel Rohrbacher, Juneau artists, kick off the 2022 Alaska Folk Festival to a standing ovation at Centennial Hall on April 4, 2022. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Alaska Folk Festival begins with a roar

The nearly half-century old festival is back in person.

A standing ovation greeted performers as the Alaska Folk Festival began live and in-person once more on Monday evening.

Annie Bartholomew and Miguel Rohrbacher played the first set at Centennial Hall before a crowd of hundreds.

“It feels unreal,” said Taylor Vidic, organizer, performer, and host for parts of the festival. “I’m so glad the sun came out. That feels like a good omen.”

[J&J Deli and Asian Mart faces closure in August]

The festival was ticking over exactly as expected for the grand opening, said Andrew Heist, president of the Alaska Folk Festival board.

“Things are going very well,” Heist said in an interview. “People are excited to be back in person.”

Heist said that it was a bit of a challenge making sure the festival could go off safely, with attendees required to don masks and show proof of vaccination at the door. Volunteers also spent an extra day preparing for the opening to make sure everything kicked off smoothly.

Juneau band The Breeze, made up of Charles Kiel Renick, Olivia Sinaiko and Bob Sinaiko, prepare to play their set at Centennial Hall during the 2022 Alaska Folk Fest on April 4, 2022. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Juneau band The Breeze, made up of Charles Kiel Renick, Olivia Sinaiko and Bob Sinaiko, prepare to play their set at Centennial Hall during the 2022 Alaska Folk Fest on April 4, 2022. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

“This is the sixth time,” said Ian Putnam, a volunteer checking for vaccinations at the door. “This is one of the reasons I moved here. The music is a big deal.”

Putnam said that the experience of keeping the all-volunteer festival, which began in 1975, going year after year was something special and compelling. Heist said that applicants to play were down about 10-15%, but there were still more than enough artists to fill the roster for a week of music.

“It’s about growing something,” Putnam said. “This has been going on for 47 years. The feel of keeping something going is pretty cool.”

For others attending, volunteering or playing, it was a first festival.

“I’ve never volunteered here before,” said Lizzie Solger, who, along with other members of the Juneau Audubon chapter’s board, volunteered for the festival. “Everyone seems like they’re really eager to be here and they’re really patient with us.”

Outside of Centennial Hall, other performances around the festival, many with the same performers, began as well.

Lisa Puananimohala’ikalani Denny plays a set at the Crystal Saloon during one of the many music shows that occur adjacent to the 2022 Alaska Folk Festival on April 4, 2022. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Lisa Puananimohala’ikalani Denny plays a set at the Crystal Saloon during one of the many music shows that occur adjacent to the 2022 Alaska Folk Festival on April 4, 2022. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

“I’m elated and honored to kick off 2022 Alaska Folk Festival. It’s my first Folk Fest,” said Lisa Puananimohala’ikalani Denny, who opened the performance at the Crystal Saloon. “This event might just be the reason I live in Juneau. There’s something about the mountains and pine trees that bring out the folk spirit.”

In addition to playing at other venues, Denny is slated for a Wednesday performance at Centennial Hall.

“I’m stoked for my main stage set and the official line up,” Denny said. “I feel so lucky to have been selected for the official Centennial Hall lineup.

Vidic, who was both organizing and playing at the Crystal Saloon, said she was glad that many of the artists who performed on the main stage, including Bartholomew, were able to also play the smaller stage.

“I’m grateful for all the people who were willing to run here from Centennial to perform,” Vidic said. “Everyone’s super game and excited to perform.”

Vidic is both playing and hosting the main stage later in the week.

“I had a seven-hour rehearsal last night for a 15 minute main stage set,” Vidic said.

Vidic said she hoped folks would appreciate the return to live performances.

“I hope people stop and look around and remember how inaccessible this was a little while ago and have a heightened sense of appreciation,” Vidic said.

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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