Anything you do three times becomes a tradition—so the International FolkFest, now in its 33rd year, is practically an institution. Sponsored and organized by longstanding local dance troupe the Cripple Creek Cloggers, the International FolkFest first took place in 1982. The idea, however, was born even earlier than that. The Cripple Creek Cloggers, who were founded in 1967, first went abroad to share their Appalachian-style dancing in 1973.
After participating in a festival in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 1977 and making their first European appearance in 1979, the group decided to organize a festival here in Murfreesboro.
“We couldn’t take our citizens with us around the world, so we decided to bring dancers here,” says Steve Cates, the group’s founder and director. Coordinated by the nonprofit International Folkloric Society, the festival ensures that guest dancers’ needs are provided in full when they arrive, including housing, food and transportation.
This year’s festival will run from June 7 to 14. The week will be bookended by full performances by all the groups, including the hosting Cripple Creek Cloggers, with Monday night’s show at the Murfreesboro Center for the Arts (starting at 7 p.m.) and the grand finale at the Bell Buckle Banquet Hall (beginning at 6 p.m.). Tickets for these two performances are $10, and the respective venues can be contacted to purchase tickets. There will also be free public performances throughout the week by individual troupes, including a full show on Saturday, June 13, on the east side of the Historic Courthouse on the Square. But, cautions Cates, this show is weather-dependent, and he encourages those who want to see the full show not to depend on this event alone.
In addition to the host troupe, this year’s FolkFest will feature dancers from Mexico, Latvia and the historic French province of Brittany. Mexico will be represented by the Ballet Folklorico de Los Angeles, supported by Mariachi Garibaldi, a 12-person mariachi band. It’s unusual for a Mexican folk dancing troupe to be able to provide its own live music, says Cates, which is a requirement for participation in the festival, along with traditional dances and costumes, so Murfreesboro is very fortunate to be able to host these groups together. The Latvian contingent is a university troupe called Dandari from the capital city of Riga, while the French dancers are called Cercle Celtique de Lanester. “They have very unusual dances and costumes,” says Cates, adding that the group notified him it could take the ladies of the troupe up to an hour to put on the elaborate headdresses that make up their traditional garb.
In addition to their time spent dancing, all of the guest dancers will have the opportunity to explore and sightsee in Middle Tennessee. Each troupe will be provided with a bus, driver and guide, and after performing at various locations throughout town in the mornings, they will have the afternoons free to see the local sights. MTSU has provided dorm rooms where the troupes will stay this year.
“They’ve been very hospitable,” says Cates of the university.
Many local churches, civic groups, and individuals are also providing breakfast for the dancers each day, while their performances venues are providing lunch for each group.
The festival is sponsored by the Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation, the City of Murfreesboro, the Tennessee Arts Commission, the Tennessee Governor’s School for the Arts, and many other generous area businesses, groups and individuals.