Fox Valley Folk Music and Storytelling Festival goes online

  • Sparky and Rhonda

    Sparky and Rhonda Courtesy of Pam Zappardino

  • February Sky

    February Sky Courtesy of February Sky

Submitted by Fox Valley Folklore Society
Posted9/4/2020 6:00 AM

The 44th annual Fox Valley Folk Music and Storytelling Festival, which will be Saturday through Monday, Sept. 5-7, will be entirely online this year.

Many artists will be safely performing from their homes. This is a chance to enjoy their music and stories, purchase CDs and products, and donate generously to help support the artists who bring so much to their fans' lives, especially during this difficult time for touring performing artists.


Friday night concert

Warm up for a weekend of folk music and storytelling with the Friday night concert hosted by the Two Way Street Coffee House. The kickoff concert featuring Sparky and Rhonda Rucker begins at 8 p.m.

Watch on Facebook Live (no Facebook account needed) or go to The Two Way Street website for the livestream. Note: This is a separate event, with donations requested to Two Way Street Coffee House. Go to or

Lyn Ford
Lyn Ford

Register in advance for "Laughter & Orature!" from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 5. Fox Valley Storytelling Guild presents this storytelling master class with Lyn Ford. There is a $25 fee. Discover narratives, songs, call and response, deep breathing, gentle stretching, and laughter that you can use to enhance your storytelling presentations. Ford will approach ways to teach and tickle the mind, touch and strengthen the heart, and encourage a sense of personal well-being and community. For details, email Fox Valley Storytelling Guild at

by signing up you agree to our terms of service

Saturday events

On Saturday, the Main Stage will feature a livestreamed singalong and open jam by Plank Road Folk Music Society from 2 to 4 p.m., also hosted by Two Way Street.

Pete's Posse
Pete's Posse - Courtesy of Pete's Posse

From 6 to 7 p.m., Pete's Posse will kick off the evening's concerts. Links to the livestream performances, unless otherwise noted, will be posted soon at

Sarah McQuaid
Sarah McQuaid - Courtesy of Phil Nicholls

Starting at 7 p.m., the performers will be Carolyn Thomas-Davidoff, Sally Rogers, Trillium, Sarah McQuaid, and Tim Grimm.

The annual "Midnight Special" Festival Concert will not be held this year due to the inability to gather in large groups and the impossibility of bringing together touring artists.

Sunday and Monday

On Sunday and Monday afternoon, there will be two live "stages" -- one for music and the other featuring storytelling. These stages will be livestreamed to Facebook and YouTube. Links will be posted on the schedule later.

Scott Ainslie
Scott Ainslie

On Sunday, the "Main Stage Live" will feature "Songs of Conscience & Songs of Hope" with Sparky and Rhonda Rucker, Scott Ainslie, and Reggie Harris from 1:30 to 3 p.m. "Evoking Emotion: Make 'Em Laugh or Cry" will feature Claudia Schmidt, Sally Rogers and February Sky from 3:30 to 5 p.m. The evening's concerts will begin at 7 p.m. and feature Scott Ainslie, Sparky and Rhonda Rucker,

Reggie Harris
Reggie Harris
Reggie Harris and Jack Williams.

Over on the "Storytelling Stage Live" on Sunday, the storytellers Lyn Ford and Bill Harley will be featured from 1 to 2:30 p.m. and again from 3 to 4:30 p.m. The "Live Ghost Stories" featuring Bill Harley, Dovie Thomason, Lyn Ford and Janice Del Negro will be 6:30 to 8 p.m.

On Labor Day, Sept. 7, the finale concert for the three-day festival will begin at 4 p.m. and the festival will close down around 6:30 p.m.

Lee Murdock
Lee Murdock - Courtesy of the Lake County Folk Club

The "Main Stage Live" will feature "Rising Above Adversity: Stories of Heroes" with Lee Murdock, Bill Harley and Sparky and Rhonda Rucker from noon to 1:30 p.m.

It will be followed by "Broad Ranging Musical Traditions" featuring Jack Williams, Pete's Posse, and Dennis Stroughmatt from 2 to 3:30 p.m.

The festival's closing concert from 4 to 6:30 p.m. will feature Claudia Schmidt, February Sky, Dennis Stroughmatt & L'Esprit Creole, Lee Murdock, Claudia Schmidt and Sally Rogers.

On the "Storytelling Stage Live," the featured storytellers Dovie Thomason and Janice Del Negro will perform from 1 to 2:30 p.m. and 3 to 4:30 p.m.


Sally Rogers
Sally Rogers - Courtesy of John Robert Williams

The performers are paid entirely from viewers' tax-deductible donations.

The suggested donation is $20 per person, per day -- or $45 for the full weekend -- but any amount is gratefully accepted and appreciated.

Just as it was on Stolp Island, there is "no gate" -- you can watch all events for free. It's all on the "honor system," always has been. But the Fox Valley Folklore Society relies on your support to make this event happen.

Remember, your donation is distributed to the performers or to pay the minimal production expenses.

For the complete schedule, visit or

• • •

The 2020 Fox Valley Folk Music and Storytelling Festival performers include:

• Master storyteller Scott Ainslie, steeped in Delta Blues traditions, started picking out tunes on the piano when he was 3. Armed with a variety of instruments -- vintage guitars, fretless gourd banjo, one-string, homemade diddley bow (cigar box guitar) and historical, personal anecdotes of his encounters with senior musicians across the South -- Ainslie brings the history, roots music, and sounds of America alive. Visit

Lyn Ford
Lyn Ford

• Janice Del Negro, a Dominican University professor, teaches storytelling, children's and young adult literature, and foundations of library and information science. She is a storyteller, author, educator and coach. She tells ghost tales and folk tales, including radical retellings of traditional tales such as "Rapunzel" and "Rumpelstiltskin." Visit

• February Sky, with Phil Cooper and Susan Urban, combine their musical talents on guitar, Appalachian dulcimer, and several other instruments. Their blended vocal harmonies are applied to varieties of folk styles from British ballads to folk standards and Susan's original songs. Their music runs the gamut from ballads to funny songs to serious and thought provoking insights into life. Visit

• Lyn Ford, a teller of "home-fried tales," is a fourth generation, nationally recognized Affrilachian storyteller. She explores the African American heritage and history in the Appalachian region. Visit

• Tim Grimm blends his love for songwriting, travel, and the storytelling of acting. Tim's credits include theater, film and television, as well as more than one "Best CD of the year" in the Folk DJ world. Visit

Pete's Posse
Pete's Posse - Courtesy of Pete's Posse

• Two-time Grammy Award winner Bill Harley is vibrant, outrageous, unpredictable and genuine with songs and stories about growing up, schooling and what it is to be human. Visit

• Reggie Harris has crisscrossed the U.S., Canada and Europe for more than 30 years delighting audiences of all ages. A consummate musician and storyteller with strong roots in traditional folk music and Gospel. His creative curiosity has developed his skill to expertly blend these influences, advised by years of creative interactions with artists like Pete Seeger, Tom Paxton, Bernice Johnson Reagon and Harry Belafonte. Visit

• Sarah McQuaid's award-winning musicianship, distinctive vocals and mastery of the songwriting craft have led reviewers to describe her as a "triple threat." Add to that a charismatic stage presence, five critically acclaimed solo albums and a battery of instruments. Visit

• Lee Murdock's musical influences span 15 generations, from 17th century Irish harp music to Scott Joplin guitar rags, and embracing the blues, freshwater shanties, original songs and ballads. Bringing a deeper understanding of the folk process, Lee's repertoire combines historical research with contemporary insights. Making folk music for the modern era, Murdock's work is an anthem to the people who live, work, learn and play along the freshwater highways of North America and beyond. Visit

• Pete's Posse trio features Pete Sutherland, his protégé Oliver Scanlon and Tristan Henderson. Posse's sonic landscape feature twin fiddles, guitar, foot percussion with mandolin, clawhammer banjo, jaw harp, rocking keyboards, and vocal harmonies. Visit

• Many of Sally Rogers' songs have become staples in the folk world. At the heart of her work is traditional and contemporary folk music, including ballads, dance tunes and lullabies. Visit

• Sparky & Rhonda Rucker weave their music into stories that the history books don't always tell. James "Sparky" Rucker has been singing songs and telling stories from the American tradition for more than 50 years, and is internationally recognized as a leading folklorist, musician, historian, storyteller, and author. Rhonda Lynn Rucker practiced medicine before becoming a full-time musician, author and storyteller. Adding vocals, piano, banjo, blues harmonica, and rhythmic bones to the mix, the married couple have been touring together for decades. Visit

Sarah McQuaid
Sarah McQuaid - Courtesy of Phil Nicholls

• Claudia Schmidt has been a touring professional for more than 30 years in North America and Europe. She has recorded 19 albums exploring folk, blues, and jazz idioms featuring 12-string guitar, mountain dulcimer, and incredible vocals. Visit

• Dennis Stroughmatt et l'Esprit Creole bring listeners on a musical odyssey into the songs, tunes, stories and culture of the Missouri Ozarks. With the blessing of the Creole people of the Midwest, they are its passionate ambassadors, expanding interest and excitement in a region that has been, in may ways, ignored by the history books. Visit

• Dovie Thomason is a First Nations storyteller. In her original Lakota/Kiowa Apache stories, she weaves historical facts, personal experiences, humor, and vivid imagery to promote understanding and respect. Her ability to craft tales that not only enchant audiences, but also carry invaluable lessons about human nature and Indigenous cultures, have garnered her international acclaim. Visit

Scott Ainslie
Scott Ainslie

• Trillium is an acoustic music quartet from suburban Chicago with an eclectic repertoire ranging from Celtic to folk to ragtime to swing to bluegrass. The bandleader is Mim Eichmann on hammered dulcimer and vocals, Doug Lofstrom on bass, John Ball on guitar and vocals, and James Sanders on violin. Visit

Reggie Harris
Reggie Harris

• Guitarist Jack Williams is a writer of vivid songs with a strong sense of place and storyteller in the old Southern tradition. His 56-year career has been shaped by folk, rock, jazz and R&B. Visit

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 X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.