Philadelphia Folk Festival photos: 60th anniversary event deemed a success

A community comes alive after two years of virtual-only events.

Audience members prance on the grass in front of the Camp Stage to tunes from the Polish American String Band

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Three generations of Berkheimers and Sciarras set up camp Thursday at Old Pool Farm and prepared to make dinner. In the late afternoon, the 80-acre fairgrounds in Upper Salford Township were filling up fast with thousands of people eager to attend the 60th anniversary edition of the Philadelphia Folk Festival.

Members of the Berkheimer and Sciarra families have been coming to the fest since 1975. Originally from Ridley in Delaware County, for years they have been traveling from Colorado, California, Canada, and Virginia to attend with their local relatives.


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The festival has taken over the Montgomery County farm just outside the city since 1962, earning it a place as one of the nation’s longest-running outdoor music fests.

Members of the Berkheimer and Sciarra families have been coming to the fest since 1975
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Some of the performers have also spanned generations.

Singer-songwriter Tom Rush, who played Saturday afternoon, is one of the musicians known for reviving folk music in the 1960s. Now 81, he still gains new fans, who discover him on FM radio and listen to him on vinyl records issued in both mono and stereo versions.

A band called Trousdale, meanwhile, said their followers often discover them on Spotify. The Los Angeles-based trio of women in their mid-20s, who met as undergrads in the school of music at the University of Southern California, had audience members singing along as they performed Friday afternoon, making their first Philly Folk Fest appearance.

Trousdale's Georgia Greene, left and Lauren Jones perform their tight harmonies on the Camp Stage at the Philadelphia Folk Festival Friday afternoon
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While youthful music devotees were well represented, a significant number of audience members has grown grayer. Over the years, the festival’s crowds have thinned from its heyday in the late ’60s through early ’90s, when it reportedly attracted upwards of 12,000 attendees for each of four days.

But many still come, for the chance to mix music and camaraderie, and form lasting memories.

The Lee Boys perform for an enthusiastic audience Saturday afternoon at the Philadelphia Folk Festival. The band plays 'Sacred Steel' music, which emerged from southern Gospel. They have infused that music with the rhythms of R&B, blues, funk, and country. As young boys they played in the House of God church n Perrine, Florida where their father was a pastor. The family group consists of three brothers Alvin Lee (guitar), Derrick Lee and Keith Lee (vocals) along with their three nephews.
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The event showcases more than song, with string bands, acrobatic performances, food vendors, and a craft bazaar. It has sparked romance and creativity — sometimes both at the same time.

Singer Shannon Lambert-Ryan remembers meeting Fionán de Barra at the Folk Festival back in 2006. He asked her to go for a walk and suggested she record an album at his Dublin studio. Two years later, she did just that, recording “Across the Pond.” That same year the duo joined with percussionist Cheryl Prashker to found Celtic roots band RUNA, and the following year they married. Last weekend the couple arrived to play at the festival with their 4-year old in tow. His grandmother watched over him during performances.

Co-founders of the band RUNA Fionán de Barra, left, and Shannon Lambert-Ryan perform at the Philadelphia Folk Festival on Saturday afternoon on the Lobby Stage
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After two years of being virtual-only, the 2022 fest was a chance to mark the passing of festival cofounder Gene Shay, who died in April 2020.

A Philadelphia folk icon, Shay’s influence extended to FM rock radio, and local DJs Ed Sciaky and David Dye both cited him as a major influence on their careers.

A Gene Shay bobble head sits on a table in Ryder Blocks tent
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Current festival organizers realize their primary challenge going forward will be to engage younger generations and achieve financial stability. The success of this year’s event is a step in that direction.

Scroll down for more pics from the 2022 Philadelphia Folk Festival.

Maggie Kinchebe and her daughter Ruby dance to the songs of the Irish band Screaming Orphans in front of the Camp Stage on Thursday evening
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Kayla Ruth and Jasper Huff sing along to the band Talisk during their performance on Fridy afternoon
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Kevin Duffy of Levittown and Florida keeps off the rays a 90-plus degree sun as he listens to Trousdale on Friday afternoon at the Camp Stage
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Lashon Halley and Dustbowl Revival perform on the Martin Stage at the Philadelphia Folk Festival Friday evening
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Festival revelers cheer the Scottish folk band Talisk during their Friday afternoon performance on the Martin Stage
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Andrea Nardello sings Lean on Me with fellow artists to close our her performance on the Lobby Stage, Friday evening at the Philadelphia Folk Festival. Nardello has been described as a cross between Janis Ian and Janis Joplin and was named by NPR as 'Emerging Artist To Know.'
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Jessie Mae, center, and Mike Panamarenko dance to the music of Talisk
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Brian Byrd plays pedal steel guitar during a concert by The Lee Boys on Saturday afternoon on the Martin Stage
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Drummer Joan Diver of the Irish band Screaming Orphans plays during a Thursday evening set for festival campers on the Camp Stage.  Screaming Orphans are four sisters raised in Bundoran in County Donegal, Ireland who formed their band as teenagers.
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Gabriel Cole-Brant sets up parasols prior to the open performance of The Little Circus and Give & Take Jugglers
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Trapeze artist Cassiopeia Haberle performs with the Little Circus in Dulcimer Grove on Saturday afternoon
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A giant puppet of the Smiling Banjo welcomes the audience to the open concert on the Martin Stage Saturday afternoon.
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Tom Rush performs on the Martin Stage Saturday afternoon at the Philadelphia Folk Festival
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The Polish American String Band performs on the Martin Stage at the Philadelphia Folk Festival on Friday afternoon
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