Meredyth Howard can count on one hand the amount of times she’s missed going to the North Georgia Folk Festival.
“There was one year the festival was on the same day as my wedding,” 33-year-old Howard said. “We had to skip that one. It was just too much to cram into one day, you know.”
Now, Howard comes out to the festival at Sandy Creek Park every year to sell her crocheted hats, booties and other artwork at her booth, Rockdaughter Designs. In previous years, she sold her art on the festival circuit, but this year she decided to only stop at the North Georgia Folk Festival because of her 17-month-old son.
“I’ve looked forward to bringing my kid here, and this is the first time I’ve really brought him,” Howard said. “He loves this music, which is the music I’ve grown up on.”
Howard said this festival, now in its 35th year, is very kid-friendly. When her son is old enough, she knows she’ll feel comfortable letting him roam around.
Looking around the intimate festival crowds, children were overtaking the playground, running through the field and playing games in the grass while folk tunes played from a small stage.
The festival brought mostly older folks and families, and for many of the attendees, the North Georgia Folk Festival has become a yearly tradition.
Ben Hertel, 38, spent most of the day juggling with his friend Mo Hendon, 58. Hertel has been coming to the folk festival since he was a sophomore in high school — when Hendon first taught him to juggle.
The two come out and teach children how to juggle or just enjoy the small crowd that forms and watches as they toss colorful pins back and forth.
Tommy Jordan, the festival director, pointed to the jugglers when he talked about why the festival was an important.
“People come here when they were kids and now they’re bringing their kids,” Jordan said. “We’re carrying on the tradition of folk music, folk art, folk crafts, people for the folks.”
Festival headliners included Jonathan Byrd & The Pickup Cowboys, Caroline Aiken Band and the Skillet Lickers.
The Skillet Lickers seemed like almost an embodiment of the folk festival, with three generations of musicians on stage and a mix of classic country songs and the history behind each tune, including a crowd favorite, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” The group of string musicians had attendees tapping their feet and cheering after banjo or mandolin solos.
Jordan wanted to make sure the lineup included all types of folk music, so he included Jonathan Byrd & The Pickup Cowboys, which has an electric guitar twist, as well as Rebecca Sunshine Band in the morning for the children, among the other musicians.
Beyond the attendees sitting on blankets and chairs listening to the music, there was a small circle of artist tents, where Howard and others displayed and sold their works.
Isabel King, 63, sat carving intricate walking sticks with an old English tool that she learned from her husband. She makes them at her home in Blairsville but also attends small festivals and heritage events to demonstrate the craft to attendees.
Other handmade items for sale included baskets and jewelry, and a blacksmith stood off to the side demonstrating this classic craft.
Howard said the artist market is well curated, and the organizers think about where to place each booth so they compliment each other instead of compete.
A food area was on the other side the the artist market and included local favorites such as Jittery Joe’s and Rashe’s Cuisine.
Jordan, who organized the event for 11 years, said everything ran smoothly. The wristband count won’t come until later in the week, but all the parking spaces were full, which he saw as a good sign.