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Its time to enjoy Gays Mills Spring Festival
Folk Festival

GAYS MILLS - Spring Festival in Gays Mills offers a lively lineup of events that offer ‘something for everyone,’ from the Folk Music Festival to the Antique Tractor Show and Ridge & Valley rodeo. Safe to say, on Mother’s Day Weekend, Gays Mills is the place to be.

And nothing says ‘spring’ like the Gays Mills Folk Festival of Music and Dance. The annual festival, held each year on Mother’s Day weekend, will take place Friday, May 11 to Sunday, May 13, in Gays Mills, Wisconsin.

“Folk Festival is all about music, dance, friends, family and fun,” Festival Organizing Committee member Maya Sondreal said.

This year marks the 26th year the festival has been held in Gays Mills, and it promises to be another ‘kick-your-heels-up-and-jump-for-joy’ delight.

“It’s a grassroots, all-homegrown, volunteer-run, low-cost festival,” Sondreal said. “It’s kind of amazing to be able to go to a concert in Gays Mills and see three acts!”

Ticket prices for the Gays Mills Folk Festival are $7 for the Friday night dance ($2 children), and $17 for the Saturday night concerts ($5 children). All park activities are free will donation.

The Gays Mills Folk Festival is a project of the Kickapoo Cultural Exchange. WDRT 91.9 FM, WORT 89.9 FM, and Organic Valley are proud supporters.

More information may be obtained by calling 608-632-2720, or by visiting the festival website

Friday, May 11

This year's festivities will start off with a Square Dance at the Gays Mills Old Town Community Building on Main Street, Friday, May 11. At 7 p.m. the Folk Fest String Band will be providing the tunes, and live callers will be leading the dances: Circles, Squares, Contras, and Reels. All ages and all experience levels are welcome.

Saturday, May 12

Saturday's events will take place at the Log Cabin Village on the south end of town, just north of the Crawford County Fairgrounds in Gays Mills. The event has been moved from its originally scheduled location in Robb Park due to recent flooding.

For parking, attendees should take Railroad Street south off Main Street, and drive past the swimming pool to the parking lot closest to the baseball field.

Other events will take place at the Old Town Community Building, 212 Main Street, in downtown Gays Mills.   

Events in the park will include ‘Parking Lot Picking,’ may-crown-making, maypole dancing, square dancing, open stage musical performances, and music workshops led by performers for the Saturday evening concert.

There will also be a ‘Community Sing,’ from 2-3 p.m. with Ilana Pescoe and Catherine Young. Anyone can come and join in the singing.

Family-friendly food will be available for purchase during the afternoon at the park. The various shelters in the Log Cabin Village area will ensure the afternoon's fun, rain or shine.

You can also help to support Folk Festival by participating in the silent auction fundraiser. This year’s silent auction will feature a large number of musical instruments, according to festival organizer Jane Keeley.

In the evening, festivalgoers can enjoy the annual Chili Dinner, served in the café at the back of the Kickapoo Exchange Food Co-op. The meal will be served from 5-7 p.m., and will feature beef and vegetarian chili, cornbread, salad and desserts. Adults can eat for $9 each, and children 12-and-under eat for $5. A variety of beverages will also be for sale.

The day will culminate with a 7 p.m. concert at the Old Town Community Building with performances by The Corn Potato String Band, The DL Cajun Band, and Kendra Swanson.

Concert performers

The Corn Potato String Band has delighted audiences with their driving fiddle tunes and harmonious singing across the U.S., Canada, Europe, Mexico, and India.

The musicians are all seasoned, multi-instrumentalists, dedicated to continuing the music and dance traditions of the Central and Southern U.S. In addition to being champion fiddlers, they play banjo, guitar, bass and mandolin and deftly handle many different antiquated styles including ballads, “ho-downs,” country “rags” and southern gospel. The band specializes in twin fiddling and double banjo tunes.

“These musicians have been playing together for quite a while,” Festival Organizing Committee member Jane Keeley said. “They used to play as the ‘Rootchie-Tootchie and the Ragtime Shepherd Kings,’ and one band member, Lindsay McCaw, used to live and play music here in the Driftless.”

The DL Cajun Band plays Cajun music from the prairies and bayous of Southwest Louisiana: two steps, waltzes, blues with Cajun accordion, fiddle, guitar, triangle, snare, bass and French vocals.

“Shawn Glidden is an excellent accordion player,” Keeley said. “He is also a Cajun dance instructor and dancer, and will be giving Cajun dance lessons in the park.”

The group draws from the time when the Saturday night dance was the community’s main form of entertainment and socialization. Before electricity and amplification, the acoustic instruments and voice were the only way of making music. This band seeks to recall that time and feeling in its music. 

The third performance will be provided by Kendra Swanson. Swanson is a song-writer and performer of lively, folksome music: frailing, clawhammer banjo, rigorous guitar, soulful strings, and hearty vocals to boot.

Her music distinctly embodies a truly Americana sound from (and about) the heartland, with intimate reflections on its flora, fauna, and people. She has independently produced and released three all-original albums, “Kendra & Kin, Live in Rockford” (2013), “Go Down to the Low Down” (2015), and "Without, Within" (2017).

A troubadour and professional naturalist, Swanson blends stories and ecology into one-of-a-kind performances of laughter and truth.

Sunday, May 13

A Sunday Morning Gospel Sing, by the banks of the Kickapoo River, will wrap up the weekend's events.

Spring Festival

Also, be sure to check out all the concurrent Gays Mills Spring Festival events:

*Antique Tractor Show & Tractor Pull on Railroad Street in downtown Gays Mills

*Ridge & Valley Rodeo at the Crawford County Fairgrounds, just south of Gays Mills along Highway 131. Rodeo activities will take place on Saturday and Sunday, starting at 9 a.m. (see story in this week’s issue)

*Mother’s Day Pancake Breakfast benefit, taking place at the Ocooch Mountain Rescue building, 111 Royal Avenue, just north of Gays Mills along Highway 131, and serving from 7-11 a.m. (see story in this week’s issue)

*’Museum of the Kickapoo’ located at the Gays Mills dam

*Village Greenhouse for all of your Mother’s Day flower shopping needs (open Saturday and Sunday)