Delaware Friends of Folk mark quarter century of making music

Delaware Friends of Folk co-president John Kidd, left, of Dover, and Delmarva Folk Festival co-founder Lonnie Field play a tune in back of Mr. Fields’ farm near Kenton, where the annual music event is held every September. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

Delaware Friends of Folk co-president John Kidd, left, of Dover, and Delmarva Folk Festival co-founder Lonnie Field play a tune in back of Mr. Fields’ farm near Kenton, where the annual music event is held every September. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

CLAYTON –– The seed for the Delaware Friends of Folk was planted exactly a quarter of a century ago when a local group of musicians got together to put on a day-long show called the Field Farm Fall Fling on a farm in rural Kent County near Hartly.

“The guys –– Lonnie and three or four other people –– got together out here one day and said ‘Why don’t we have a festival out here?’ so they did,” said John Kidd, Delaware Friends of Folk co-president.

The owner of the farm, Lonnie Field, said the idea was based of the Philadelphia Folk Festival and was intended to be a one-day, one-time event.

It was a no-frills gathering intended for fans of local music to sit on blankets, relax and listen to live music. The stage was built with a handful of wooden pallets and the music was played with just a few speakers connected to a generator.

“They didn’t expect it to be much of anything, just a big get-together, but a couple hundred people just showed up out of the blue,” Mr. Kidd said.

Admission was free but attendees left donations that ended up totaling a few hundred dollars. With the monetary and vocal support of the audience, Mr. Field and his fellow musicians knew they needed to do more than a single show.

“That support made us realize we needed to do more,” Mr. Field said. “So we started the Friends of Folk and making it official and starting a bank account, all that, really ensured the festival coming back every year.”

For the first seven or eight years, the group and its festival, now called the Delmarva Folk Festival, were perpetuated by the local music community and their large network of friends spreading the information by word of mouth.

But as some of the initial musicians grew older and moved away, the social structure that kept the festival alive started to break down so the festival had to attract listeners based on the music itself.

“It’s hard music to sell. People all say they like it but it hard to get people out here to listen for a while or pay to listen,” Mr. Kidd said.

But the support did continue with a little publicity and new musicians joining the organization and now the festival is a two-day event drawing in hundreds of people who camp overnight on the farm in tents and RVs.

More music

And after the late-September festival being the Friends of Folk’s premier event for several years, the organization started seeing more and more dates filling its calendar throughout the year.

The most recent addition to the schedule was the State House Series, a series of seven shows sparked by the First State Heritage Park.

“They approached us about two years ago because they have lantern tours on the weekends during the summer but don’t really have anything going on in the winter,” Mr. Kidd

Delaware Friends of Folk co-president John Kidd, left, of Dover, and Lonnie Field who owns the farm near Hartly where the annual Delaware Folk Festival is held, sit on the sound deck with the main stage behind them discussing the history of the local music festival, which will turn 25 in September.

Delaware Friends of Folk co-president John Kidd, left, of Dover, and Lonnie Field who owns the farm near Hartly where the annual Delaware Folk Festival is held, sit on the sound deck with the main stage behind them discussing the history of the local music festival, which will turn 25 in September.

said.

So for First Fridays during the winter, Friends of Folk has an hour-long show at the Old State House in Dover.

“The park came up with a little seed money for the first four shows and the last three were covered by the Kent County Fund for the Arts, which is a great organization,” Mr. Kidd said.

The last show of the series was earlier this month but Mr. Field and Mr. Kidd both hope the organization is asked back next year.

“I think it’s been a good relationship for us and First State,” Mr. Kidd said. “We draw a crowd and they like the music we do. It’s been a neat series.”

Although the State House Series is only temporary, the Friends of Folk’s Pick-In sessions and Coffee House concerts happen monthly all year-round.

The Pick-In sessions are held at the Young Bean coffee shop in Clayton on the second Saturday of every month.

“It’s just an open kind of thing that starts at noon and goes on until they close at three,” Mr. Kidd said. “It’s a quick in-and-out thing. Anyone who wants to listen or play something acoustic can just show up.”

The Coffee House concerts are shows with scheduled acts performing the third Saturday of each month at Wesley College’s Barrett Chapel.

The July and August concerts are not scheduled, they’re open-mics, more like the Pick-Ins. At these three shows, attendees get to vote for their favorite acts. The top three acts from the July and August shows each win a spot to play on the Friday night of the festival.

The Friday shows are another competition. The festival audience votes again for their favorite act and the winner is named the “Delmarva Folk Hero.”

Festival plans

The prize for being named the Folk Hero is the opening slot on Saturday to play a second show. And this year the Folk Hero will be opening for new acts and some familiar faces.

“Since it’s the 25th year, we’re going to have some legacy acts so some people from the very beginning are going to come back and play at least a few songs,” Mr. Field said.

He and Mr. Kidd are planning on taking the stage too since both are longtime musicians and have played at the festival off and on since its start.

“I started playing when I was 13,” Mr. Field said. “My mother taught me some then sent me for a few lessons when I was 13 but it was really her playing that inspired me.”

He’s played in various bands in the area since he was young, most notably, Sand Creek.

Mr. Kidd said he always wanted to be a guitar player but was cursed with fat fingers so he settled for the harmonica –– an instrument he’s mastered over the years.

“I tried it and it worked,” he said. “It’s the only instrument you can’t see any of it when you play so that’s always been interesting.”

The three practice about three times a month writing songs, playing and performing at the occasional gig.

The next Pick-In is April 9 from noon to 3 at the Young Bean at 314 Main St. in Clayton and the next Coffee House concert is April 16 from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Wesley College’s Bennett Chapel.

For a more information and a full schedule, visit the Friends of Folk’s Facebook page or website, delfolk.org.

Reach staff writer Ashton Brown at abrown@newszap.com. Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.

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