Albuquerque’s Folk Art Festival holds first in-person event since pandemic

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The Albuquerque Folk Festival is back after going virtual last year. Organizers said they’re working to keep this gathering as COVID-free as possible.

Folk bands like 3hatrio were more than excited to travel to Albuquerque this weekend, after a year of performing virtually.

“It’s hard to compare it because it was a virtual festival instead of in-person and you can’t fake the in person energy and the real crowd when you are playing to a camera, it’s not the same energy,” said Eli Wrankle, 3hattrio band member.

And they aren’t alone, nearly 20 different performers will take to the stage throughout the day, some for the first time.

“It was a bit of a lifeline for the musicians because a lot of their events had been canceled and we were able to pay them which kept them a float for a while, then guaranteed them a position for this festival so they had something to look forward to,” said Bill Miller, Festival president.

The folk festival usually happens in the summer, but this year they really wanted to be in person—so they waited.

“We thought June was too early with COVID and by now we’d be fine. But, what we are finding out is with the Delta Variant we still have to be careful,” said Bill Balassi, Festival co-director.

So they made a few adjustments, like moving work shops outside – and requiring everyone to be vaccinated or test negative for COVID.

“We are grateful to be back here and have the safest festival we can,” said Balassi.

“One of the bands here has a song called ‘Better 6 feet apart than 6 feet under’, so that’s the motto,” said Miller.

But it’s not just performers and organizers who are excited to be back.

“You know some people got COVID babies, I got a COVID banjo,” said Loria Ellison, festival attendee.

Festival goers are happy to see others face to face again, especially in a safe environment.

“I am so pleased and excited that they checked my vaccine card and that masks were optional, but I loved that they checked my status cause I work in health care and it’s just so terrifying, so to have them check that I was like yes!” said Ellsion.