Inaugural Bellingham Folk Festival kicks off this Friday

A while back, the ever-energetic Polecat violinist Cayley Schmid, inspired by regional festivals like the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes in Port Townsend and the Wintergrass in Bellevue, says she figured “Bellingham is so full of great players, singers, and dancers that we could easily support a similar event.”

Thus was born the Bellingham Folk Festival, which begins at 4:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 19, at Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship, in the Lettered Streets neighborhood.

The festival offers two days of workshops and two evenings of concerts and square dances. And it’s kid-friendly.

“I wanted to create an event that harnessed the open-minded, dynamic energy that is created when musicians come together to learn from one another,” Schmid says.

“As a teacher and a performer, I am lucky enough to be part of the process of people discovering joy in music. It is so inspiring to see this happen and it motivates me to create welcoming musical environments for others,” she adds. “I hope that this festival can bring together all types of local musicians and music lovers to build an even stronger folk music network within our community.”

Festival participants include a wide range of performers, including Flip Breskin, Chad Petersen, Linda Allen (back for a short stay from Holden Village), Lucas Hicks, Kat Bula, Clyde Curley, Jeff Lefferts, Norah McLaughlin and Clea Taylor.

Schmid says the festival will unite musicians and audiences by providing an atmosphere where both are welcome at all times.

“All of the workshops, concerts, dances and other features will be participant- and observer-friendly,” she says. “Players can bring their instruments to engage in workshop learning and jam all weekend. All ages and abilities are welcome, and there are workshops to fit any level of player. If you don’t play an instrument you can try one of the many dance or singing workshops, join the square dance, or just come for the inspiring evening concerts.”

And to repeat: All elements of the festival are kid- to big-kid friendly. Bring the whole family, Schmid says.

Schmid has been playing fiddle for 15 years and grew up in Bellingham taking lessons from Anna Schaad, who will be teaching and performing at the festival. Schmid currently teaches fiddle, plays in the bands Polecat and Giants’ Causeway, coordinates the Roeder Home music, and heads up the Bellingham Ceili Club.

She hopes the festival can become an annual event.

“I’ve been overwhelmed with the positive feedback from the community,” she says. “With a good turnout this year, I can definitely see this becoming a new winter tradition.”