The Flagstaff Folk Festival was established in 2002 by FFOTM stalwart Ken Ralston, who brought his organizational and leadership skills to bear on an event that he hoped would mirror the best of the long-running folk festivals in Prescott and Phoenix. Ken envisioned a low-cost, family-friendly festival with musicians from around the state that also kept a special place for Flagstaff’s local talent. The first few years saw great growth in size and popularity and a small but dedicated group of organizers each year. In 2002, Ken worked with Vennie White on publicity. In 2003 and 2004, Ken was helped by Christina Boyd, Lloyd Holdeman, and Susan Billingsley. Ken moved to greener pastures (literally, to Nutrioso) in 2005 and the festival was produced for the next two years through the continued work of Christina Boyd, along with Jesse Anderson and Mike Reddig. Christina and Jesse served as festival organizers from 2007 through 2011, turning things over to Barry Malpas and Anne Wittke for the 2012 festival. They continued through 2017, and Rebecca Cooke and Larry Peterson have taken over the reins starting in 2018.
Of course this list is just a small part of the larger effort that has made the festival successful for a decade. The festival was originally produced in partnership with the Trappings of the American West show held at the Coconino Center for the Arts, under the direction of Linda Stedman and the Dry Creek Arts Fellowship. The Trappings folks graciously slashed admission fees and let the Folk Festival essentially take over their gallery space with the knowledge that it would expose many more people to their wonderful exhibits. After the Trappings exhibit moved from the Center, FFOTM worked directly with the Flagstaff Arts Council (formerly Flagstaff Cultural Partners), with director Cheryl Brock in 2005 and 2006, and John (JT) Tannous from 2007 onwards. We would like to offer a big thanks to JT for continuing the partnership and doing the bulk of the publicity work for a number of years, and to FAC staff members past and present Jillian Asplund, Robin Cadigan, Elizabeth Vogler, Joe Cornett, Ren Clark, Kimball Denetso, Sarah Smallwood and Whitney Packer.
With the loss of the use of the Art Barn in 2008, Festival organizers worked hard to find space for two stages. Les Roe, director of The Pioneer Museum, invited the festival to expand onto the museum grounds. Through the dedicated work of Les and staff members Vincent Ritchie and Joe Meehan, the Barn Stage and the Pioneer Stage were both established, utilizing some of their historic buildings that had been long shut. In 2014 Bill Peterson, as the new director of the Pioneer Museum, has continued the relationship, and we added a new stage inside the Museum building. The three-way partnership between FFOTM, FAC, and The Pioneer Museum has become a unique and successful relationship that has melded the focus on traditional music that FFOTM represents with the arts interest of FAC and the historical bent of The Pioneer Museum. We are very thankful to our partners as they have been key to the Festival’s continued success.
There are many other folks who deserve acknowledgment for a two-day all-volunteer run festival. We have had the good luck of being aided by hundreds of people over the years who have donated their time to make the event successful. Besides those mentioned above, we would especially like to highlight the following people who have helped the festival become what it is. Kathleen Stigmon, Mark Alexander, Warren Walters, David Wayne, Lloyd Holdeman, and Janie Schindler have all spent countless hours on publicity, festival grounds preparation, day of event parking and logistical help, and clean-up afterwards. Julie Sullivan and Lara Gomora have often helped out with graphic design over the years. Bill Vernieu, Larry Peterson, Jim Cross, Jim Glish, Eric Ramsey, Mike Dunham and Terry Dumdei have spent many long festival days at their soundboards making everything sound right for our performers. Eric Ramsey has lent his sound equipment to make sure we had sound at the outdoor amphitheater. We would also like to acknowledge long-time sound volunteers Sherlin Gerhart, Rusty Tweed, Fred Coon, Kevin Johns, Ken Ralston, and Kari Usher. Thanks as well to Deb Comly and Mike Reddig, and Mark Alexander, who have organized our barn dances. Also, thank you to Coconino County for parking space and Sechrist School for parking space and a place to dance, and the Civil Air Patrol for providing parking volunteers.
To anyone we have forgotten to mention, please know that your work has been greatly appreciated by FFOTM and festival-goers alike. And last but not least, we are greatly indebted to the hundreds of musicians and performers who have filled our stages for the last fifteen years and who have left behind countless great memories and given our audiences something to cheer about act after act.