Delaware County’s only Metro Park is also the site of a (mostly) free folk music festival, which takes place this weekend.
The 23rd annual Central Ohio Folk Festival starts Friday and goes through Sunday in Highbanks Metro Park, 9466 Columbus Pike in Lewis Center. Enter at the park entrance on U.S. Route 23, and there will be signs directing visitors to the Big Meadows Picnic Area of the park (along State Routes 750 and 315).
There’s a meet and greet from 5-9 p.m. today at the northern shelter, with a “Worst song in the world” contest at 7:30 p.m. The festival starts in earnest with an opening singalong Saturday at 11 a.m. to celebrate the 100th birthday of the late folk singer Pete Seeger (1919-2014), who was known for songs such as “Turn Turn Turn,” “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” Following that are 16 free hourly concerts in three performing tents with local and national acts until 6 p.m. Sunday will start with a gospel set at 11 a.m., and then 10 free hourly concerts until 4:30 p.m., and a closing song circle to end the festival at 5:30 p.m.
In between, there’s children’s activities like an “instrument petting zoo,” drum circles, clogging and Mexican folk dancing, vendors and food.
The only costs are for the 34 hourlong workshops; a cigar box guitar kit for those who’d like make one; and the headliner concert at 7:15 p.m. on Saturday. This concert has two name acts in folk circles: The Small Glories (a duo from Canada); and Sugar and the Mint (a youthful quintet out of Arizona ranging in age from 18-22). Registration is required for the workshops or Saturday evening concert, and is available on-site.
“The whole festival is family entertainment at its finest,” said festival director Diane Boston, in a press release. “And it is a rich learning opportunity in multiple ways for all ages; whether it is hearing a wide range of folk and acoustic roots music or trying out an instrument for the first time. Whether it is honing already existing musical skills or learning steps to a folk dance, it is bound to be a great experience for the whole family. And while we’re listening to some of the songs, we can learn a lot about the struggles of ordinary folks — sailors, farmers, immigrants, minorities, factory workers, lovers, slaves, and miners.”
Those in need of a break from the music can take a stroll on one of several trails at Highbanks. The festival site is steps away from an 0.6-mile walk along the Olentangy State Scenic River; the popular 2.5-mile Dripping Rock trail; and a 2.3-mile multi-use paved trail near the busy roads. For those who want to get deeper into the park, there’s also Adena Indian mounds, gravestones, overlook decks, and a nature center to explore.
“Highbanks is named for its massive 100-foot-high shale bluff towering over the Olentangy State Scenic River,” the Metro Parks website states. “Tributary streams cutting across the bluff have created a number of deep ravines in the eastern part of the 1,200-acre park. Ohio and Olentangy shales, often containing outstanding large concretions, are exposed on the bluff face and sides of the ravines.”
Recently, the park has held events such mushroom identification, hikes to search for bald eagles and salamanders, a wildflower walk, and roasting s’mores by a campfire.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.