Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Logo for The Western Front

Bellingham Folk Festival returns

The festivities are back as the ninth annual Bellingham Folk Festival returns to town

Marie and the Band perform at the Majestic Ballroom in downtown Bellingham, Wash., on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023. // Photo taken by Mathew Callaghan

Singing, square-dancing, laughing and toe-tapping melodies filled downtown Bellingham during the ninth annual Bellingham Folk Festival last weekend, Jan. 19 to 22.

The folk festival featured a variety of artists from all over the world and many from the Bellingham area. The festival was held at several locations around downtown Bellingham including the Blue Room, The Majestic Ballroom, The Honeymoon, Brandywine Kitchen, Champlin Guitars and Aslan Depot.

Music and events started Thursday and lasted through Sunday. The first day of the festival was completely free at all venues with an available $75 pass to events at The Blue Room and The Majestic for the remainder of the weekend. Every other venue mentioned was free for the entirety of the festival.

Cayley Schmid, the festival director, expected close to 80 musicians at the festival. Apart from live performances, Schmid said the festival also featured several workshops throughout the weekend.

“We got some [workshops] that are for like fiddle players … or people that want to learn how to play guitar backup in a certain style. We also have ones where you don't need an instrument; they're more song-based learning,” Schmid said. “We have one that's more of a discussion panel thing where people are talking about how to incorporate music into the community more.”

Schmid was not only the organizer for this year's festival but was the original driving force behind the movement to establish a folk festival in Bellingham. 

David Pender Lofgren, a local drummer, percussionist and podcaster, has also been involved with the Bellingham Folk Festival since its inception. Lofgren said without Schmid, there probably wouldn’t be a folk festival in Bellingham.

“One of the things that I love about the way that Cayley designs the festival is that it's not just performance. There's a lot of performance that happens, and that's part of it, but every day there are workshops where you can go sit in a small room with the person you just saw play on the stage last night and learn a tune from them,” Lofgren said. “It sort of breaks down these social contracts of performer versus audience to really create this feel, this sort of like continuity in the experience where everyone is both a receiver of and a contributor to the folk music experience.”

Folk music is special to senior trumpet instructor Vincent Green of Western Washington University because it reminds him of historical French and Belgian music.

“When I think of folk music, I think of music from different places that go way back,” Green said. “Some of the songs may have their origins in the 15th to 16th century.”

Lofgren did not perform in this year's folk festival because he has been on tour in Oregon. However, in previous years, Lofgren said he has performed with several different bands at the festival.

Even though he was unable to attend physically, Lofgren was still excited to see the turnout for the festival and wants to invite anyone who's interested to join future festivities.

“Folk music offers an invitation to anyone who's listening to draw in a bit closer and to listen to a story or to leave humming a tune,” Lofgren said. “And I think that I would challenge anyone who thinks ‘Oh, folk music isn't really for me.’ Give it a shot because I think you'll probably be surprised what you might find.”

Mathew Callaghan

Mathew Callaghan (he/him) is a senior sports reporter for the Front this quarter. He plans to major in journalism and minor in law, diversity and justice through Fairhaven. In his free time, Mathew likes to write, hike, read and play basketball. 

You can reach him at

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Western Front