The Moab Folk Festival, which will take place from Friday, November 4 to Sunday, November 6, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. In addition to its classic two-day outdoor festival, this year’s event lineup includes a special 20th-anniversary concert on Friday night, free public workshops with artists, and free evening acoustic concerts.
“I really think that the crowd is just going to be thrilled with the quality of musicians we have this year,” said Cassie Paup, the festival director at Friends of the Moab Folk Festival, the nonprofit that puts on the festival each year with funding from local business sponsors and the Utah Division of Arts and Museums.
Creating each year’s lineup always begins with a headliner—this year, it’s Peter Rowan—and Peoples’ Choice Returning Artist—this year, Lindsay Lou. From there, Paup builds a roster that complements itself: she said she watches a lot of YouTube and listens to a lot of bluegrass playlists, and contacts artists who have performed in Moab before or who she met at other events.
“I’m looking forward to being reunited with everybody,” Paup said. “It’s like a family reunion.”
“It’s just fun,” said Makeda Barkley, the assistant director of the festival. “I love getting together with big groups of people who all have similar interests, and are all just excited to be there.”
The Friends of the Moab Folk Festival nonprofit also funds a Moab Folk Camp each year just before the Folk Fest. The camp, hosted by musician Cosy Sheridan, offers music classes like guitar, banjo, and songwriting to adults. While this year’s camp is sold out already, there will be a free concert on Tuesday, Nov. 1 at 7 p.m. at the Moab Arts and Recreation Center put on by camp participants.
The fun begins the night of Friday, Nov. 4, with the Folk Festival’s 20th-anniversary concert/kick-off at Star Hall, featuring performers James Keelaghan and The Sweet Water Warblers, a trio comprised of Rachael Davis, Lindsay Lou, and May Erlewine, who on Friday will also be joined by Maya de Vitry.
“The Sweet Water Warblers are kind of a supergroup of our People’s Choice Performers: May Erlewine and Lindsay Lou. Rachael Davis is an incredible vocalist in her own right, and they’re being joined by Maya de Vitry, who is just loved. She’s a really cool singer-songwriter,” Paup said. “[The Sweet Water Warblers] are just going to be a great way to start the festival.”
On Saturday, Nov. 5, and Sunday, Nov. 6, there will be eight performances, all at the Center St. Ballparks, from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day. Saturday’s lineup includes Lindsay Lou, returning as the People’s Choice Returning Artist from last year’s festival; Kyshona Armstrong; Joe Craven; and headliner Peter Rowan, who will be performing with the Grammy award winners Los Texmaniacs.
Sunday’s lineup includes The Sweet Water Warblers and Maya de Vitry, the Henhouse Prowlers, and Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway. Sunday finishes out with a performance by The Infamous Stringdusters, a bluegrass band best known for their 2017 cover of “Just like Heaven.”
“My favorite time of the festival is always Sunday,” Paup said. “Everything’s in its place, and I can relax and look out onto the sea of smiling faces and enjoy.”
The festival also offers free workshops and acoustic concerts throughout the weekend. On Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Backyard Theater, there will be a “Moab Folk Festival jam session” with some of the artists performing on Saturday and Sunday.
Saturday features three workshops: a “coffee slam and bluegrass jam” from 9 to 11 a.m. at the Sun Court; a “singer-songwriter in the round” with James Keelaghan, Maya de Vitry, and Cosy Sheridan from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. at Star Hall; and an “evening unplugged” concert at the Backyard Theater with Maya de Vitry and Lindsay Lou from 6 to 8 p.m.
On Sunday, there will be another “coffee slam and bluegrass jam” from 9 to 11 a.m. at the Sun Court, and a live interview of Peter Rowan by Chris Sealy from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. at Star Hall.
More information and ticket sales can be found at www.moabfolkfestival.com. Single-day tickets are $60; a festival weekend pass is $110. Locals tickets are available at Back of Beyond Bookstore and the Canyonlands Copy Center for 10% off (cash or check only).