For the past 36 years, the Fox Valley Folk Music and Storytelling Festival has maintained a community feel, an intergenerational appeal, and a regional reputation.
Dave Humphreys, founder of Two Way Street Coffee House, a longtime, live folk music venue in Downers Grove, has been at the Geneva festival for the past 25 years. Humphreys said the festival's Island Park location, the volunteers who put the festival on, the performers, and everyone who attends combine to give the event an especially inclusive atmosphere.
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"This festival has a much more community, participatory feel than almost any," Humphreys said.
The Geneva Park District opened Island Park just for the festival -- one of only two events to take place this summer at the park because of construction. Organizers were concerned that would confuse regular attendees and cut down on foot traffic, but the event filled up early in its first day, easing their fears.
Donations from the crowds almost exclusively pay for musicians who come from across the country. Only five percent of the proceeds are reserved for operations in the volunteer-run festival, which continues Monday.
Cheryl Joyal, co-manager of the folk music side of the festival, said organizers have routinely been able to attract high quality performers known locally and nationally to the Geneva event.
"This is known as a performers festival," Joyal said. "The performers love to come here because it's really about the music."
Workshops throughout the day let musicians collaborate and learn from each other with attendees looking on.
The storytelling tents highlight the narrative component of the folk tradition. Sue Black, of the Fox Valley Storytelling Guild, said the art has evolved and changed from pure folk tales to include family stories and "story slams" that incorporate competition between storytellers.
"It's a growing, thriving art," Black said.
With the rain holding off Sunday, people strolled along the festival grounds or set up chairs to enjoy the main stage entertainment for hours at a time. Bud Miedema and his wife, Virginia, of Hanover Park, were enthusiastic about the live bands. Miedema is particularly fond of banjo music and was happy to have access to the festival so close to home.
"It's cool that something like this is right in the backyard," Miedema said.
Entertainment will continue Monday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. with an ice cream eating competition set for 3 p.m.