37th annual Woodstock Folk Festival returns to Woodstock Square July 17

After going virtual the past two years, the Woodstock Folk Festival returns on Sunday, July 17. The 37th annual festival will feature local, national, and international artists performing in a variety of musical styles: Afro-Cuban, Americana, blues, cabaret, contemporary and traditional folk, country, and jazz.

Longtime festival emcee Chuck VanderVennet and Rich Warren, former longtime host of WFMT's "The Midnight Special," will co-host the event from noon to 6 p.m. on the historic Woodstock Square.

Though there will be a one-hour sampler available on the website afterward, the main focus will be on the in-person festival.

Suggested donation for the all-day festival is $25 or $35 for families. There is no preregistration. Bring a blanket or lawn chairs.

The festival will open at noon with Woodstock-based Tricia Alexander, accompanied by Alpha Stewart Jr. A 2013 Woodstock Folk Festival's Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Alexander is a healing artist, singer-songwriter, guitarist, percussionist, and harmonica player. She presents jazz, blues, folk, and spoken word in her performances. Because of her skill in bringing people together and encouraging them to sing, she also will lead the All-Sing Finale at 5:40 p.m.

The René Avila Quartet will perform Afro-Cuban music at 12:30 p.m. Avila is a Chicago-area-based educator, basketball coach, bass player, host of WDCB's "Mambo Inn," and band leader.

Cassandra Vohs-Demann, founder and artistic director of the Woodstock Community Choir, will perform at the July 17 Woodstock Folk Festival. Courtesy of Cassandra Vohs-Demann

Cassandra Vohs-Demann, founder and artistic director of the Woodstock Community Choir, will take to the stage at 1:15 p.m., performing music from folk to country to rock.

At 2 p.m., the Nashville-based trio South for Winter, featuring Dani Cichon, Nick Stone and Alex Stradal, will perform folk, blues, and jazz with delicate harmonies and music on guitar, cello, mandolin, tambourine, and stomp box.

Katie Oates, accompanied by Parker Foley, will perform classical, folk, blues, jazz, and Americana at 2:45 p.m. The North Carolina-based artist started on stage as a classically trained singer before transitioning to her own original songs. Her fourth album, "We Go On: Si Kahn's Songs of Hope in Hard Times," released in 2021, features songs by her mentor, American singer-songwriter Si Kahn.

Singer Katie Oates will perform music from classical, folk, blues, jazz, and Americana at the Woodstock Folk Festival. Courtesy of Daniel Coston

Ontario, Canada-based Tia McGraff and Tommy Parham, known for Americana and country music, will perform at 3:30 p.m.

At 4:15 p.m., North Carolina-based Rod Abernethy, known for his Southern folk and frenetic guitar instrumentals, will take the stage at 4:15 p.m. He is a singer-songwriter, guitarist, professor, and composer whose music has been used by Universal, Paramount, Disney, and others.

Wattle & Daub will be the featured performers at the open mic from 1:30 to 2 p.m. at Stage Left Cafe. Signup for the open mic starts at 12:05 p.m.

In case of rain, the festival will move across the street to the historic 1889 Woodstock Opera House.

Due to continued uncertainty and concern about COVID, there will not be a workshop or children's area this year, but the festival hopes to bring them back next year. Festival merchandise and performer CDs, books, and other merchandise can be purchased at the Festival.

Award presentations

At 5 p.m., the festival will present its Lifetime Achievement Award to Megon McDonough and its "Woody" Award to Keith Johnson.

Illinois- and Minnesota-based Megon McDonough is a folk/cabaret singer-songwriter who grew up in Crystal Lake. Her eclectic repertoire includes folk, country, cabaret, and jazz. She also starred in the play, "Always, Patsy Cline."

Megon McDonough, a folk/cabaret singer-songwriter who grew up in Crystal Lake, will be awarded this year's Woodstock Folk Festival Lifetime Achievement Award. Courtesy of Megon McDonough

Singer and guitarist Keith Johnson will be honored for his many contributions to the Woodstock music community and beyond. As co-founder and director of Off Square Music, Johnson hosts concerts and open mics where he champions both seasoned and new performers. He also serves as the director of the Woodstock Farmers Market, where he started "Music at the Market." He also runs Harvest Fest.

There also will be a celebration of the 30th anniversary of Cary-based, internationally touring duo Jacquie Manning and Rich Prezioso, known as Small Potatoes.

McDonough and Small Potatoes will perform after the awards presentation.

The Cary, Illinois-based Small Potatoes received the Woodstock Folk Festival Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017 and have performed at the festival numerous times. Singer-songwriters and multi-instrumentalists Jacquie Manning and Rich Prezioso celebrate 30 years of a touring career that includes performances across North America and in Ireland featuring an eclectic mix of musical styles described as "Celtic to Cowboy."

Donations to the festival are welcome at any time. Use the Donations tab at to contribute to the success of this year's festival. You can also contribute by sending a check made out to Woodstock Folk Festival to P.O. Box 1628, Woodstock, IL 60098.

To volunteer to help with the Festival, contact

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.