A Chance to See the World Through Dance: Murfreesboro’s 33rd International FolkFest

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.

Dance troupe from France

Dance troupe from France


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.

Dandari from Latvia

Dandari from Latvia


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.

Mariachi Garabaldi and Ballet Folklorico de Los Angeles.

Mariachi Garabaldi and Ballet Folklorico de Los Angeles.

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.

Visit mboro-international-folkfest.org or cripplecreekcloggers.org to learn more.


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  • steve cates

    Thanks to the PULSE for your continued support of International Folkfest! We are fortunate to have you in our community.

    In this article, Sarah Clark has done a superb job of balancing the presentation of information about our 2015 festival, as well as providing an historic perspective. She has used current pictures to show your readers what to expect from the performances upcoming.

    We do appreciate all of the community groups and individuals who help us each year to be able to present our festival. It was the first of its kind ever to be organized in the U.S. and we are still dedicated to promoting good will and understanding among all nations!

    For those interested, we always need volunteers to assist as we are do our preparations. (Planning for our June 12-19 festival is already underway!) We also are always interested having new members of Cripple Creek Cloggers. There is no charge to participate and there are varied opportunities to learn Appalachian-style square dancing with a clogging step, to perform locally and regionally and to travel with the troupe to represent the U.S.A. in festivals around the world similar to ours. Those who wish more information about either activity are welcome to call me at 615 896 3559 or write me at appdancer@aol.com.

    Steve Cates

  • Susan Redwine

    It sounds like fun.

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Paul Mitchell the school
The Nurture Nook
Murfreesboro Symphony Orchestra