Folk fest mixes old and new talent

Annual festival opens Friday in Mielke Park
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Contributed Photo The Green Bay Pickers are a new addition to this year’s Shawano Folk Music Festival. The band will be playing during the day Saturday and Sunday.

It won’t just be the birds singing in Mielke Park this weekend as the Shawano Folk Music Festival returns.

Four outdoor stages and the Mielke Arts Center will echo with a variety of music Friday through Sunday performed by dozens of folk musicians from Wisconsin and beyond.

“There are some incredible musicians,” said Dori Jerger, public relations co-coordinator for the festival.

There are plenty of familiar faces in this year’s show. Tom Pease, a popular children’s entertainer, is the festival’s honorary co-director and the master of ceremonies for the Friday night concert.

Frogwater, known for playing a variety of songs from Celtic to delta blues, will also return to the stage at the Mielke. The band is based in Milwaukee.

There will also be some new groups in the mix. The Green Bay Pickers — not to be confused with the football team of a similar name — will make their debut. The group is billed as a reunion of several Green Bay area bands, including The Brown County Bluegrass Boys, Thunder Mountain and the Back Porch Bluegrass Band.

“A couple of people went to hear the Green Bay Pickers when they were playing in Green Bay and said, ‘You’ve got to bring them. They’re wonderful,’” Jerger said.

All told, 21 musical acts will be part of this year’s festival.

A new addition to the festival is a master class on playing a Native American flute. Wade Fernandez, an award-winning recording artist from Keshena, will conduct the class Friday, and class members will be invited to join him when he performs at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

“Out of all the possibilities, Wade is the one we’re going with this year. He’s a very accomplished teacher and flute player,” Jerger said. “If it’s successful, we might do (the class) every year.”

Besides the musicians, there will be plenty of other activities. A buckskinners’ rendezvous and crafters will be in the park. A food court with an open stage for eager amateurs will also be open, and there will be a quilt raffle all weekend, with a drawing at the end of the closing concert Sunday.

This year’s festival is being dedicated to Cliff Elertson, who was a regular performer at the festival before passing away in February at the age of 83.

Jerger said most folks who attend the festival want to do more than listen; they want to take part.

“It’s about more than bringing in fabulous musicians,” Jerger said. “It’s a sense of community and the music and the musicians and the audience being part of the same process instead of music as a spectator sport.”

AT A GLANCE

WHAT: Shawano Folk Music Festival

WHEN: 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Concerts at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

WHERE: Mielke Park and Mielke Arts Center, N5649 Airport Road, Shawano.

ADMISSION: $64 weekend pass, $12 daytime pass, $30 daytime pass for whole family, $22 evening concert