The Sarasota Folk Festival began in October 2003 as a one-day event held at the Crowley Museum and Nature Center in Old Myakka. That time and place suited the event just fine for the next four years, but last year, the Sarasota Folk Club decided our town deserves better. This weekend, the festival — now in its sixth year — will be a two-day event, and will be hosted down in Osprey’s Oscar Scherer State Park.
But the length, place and time of year are not the only things different this go-’round. This time, the event’s got a theme: “Go Green.” All the vendors have pledged to use biodegradable consumables and recycle any plastic or paper materials used; they’ll also set up recycling bins for the attendees to use as well. There will be displays and exhibits set up to educate people on sustainable and renewable technology like solar panels, house weatherization and how to reduce their carbon footprint. But it ain’t all environmental lesson-learnin’. There’s obviously good music to be heard as well. We chatted with a few of the artists in the festival’s 30-act lineup:
This singer/songwriter has been a Folk Festival staple since its inception, and is serving as the current president of the Sarasota Folk Club. Performing is her full-time job. “I just play, and when the bills are paid at the end of the month I say, ‘Yea,’” she says. Simmons cites her major influences as Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Bonnie Raitt and other female artists she listened to while growing up in the ’80s.
“If you have music in your blood, you have to do music,” she says. “If you don’t, you will spontaneously combust. There is just something in my heart and soul that drives me to do music.” Simmons characterizes her music as an eclectic and diverse style of blues, jazz and folk. She started learning the traditional stuff as a child, then picked up the blues as she grew up, and only stumbled onto jazz later in life. She’s put out 10 full-length albums over her 30 years of playing. “I have five for sale now,” she says. “Since I’m an independent artist, I don’t reprint them when I run out. I just make a new one.”