The Champaign-Urbana Folk and Roots Festival is happening in person this year. Spread out through downtown Urbana, the festival runs Thursday, October 21st through Saturday, October 23rd. This will be my first time attending the festival despite living in Champaign-Urbana my whole life, so I am very excited to attend. I asked festival organizer Rob Krumm some questions about the festival.


Smile Politely: The fest is back in person after going virtual last year. What will this year's fest look like as far as safety precautions and such?

Rob Krumm: The festival is trying to make public safety a priority. As such, we are requiring proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID-19 test (within 72 hours) as part of purchasing or picking up a festival wristband. For indoor shows, masks will be required. For outdoor shows, we encourage people to wear a mask.

SP: What kinds of events are you hosting at the fest? Is it just music performances?

Krumm: While the festival has always featured performances, we also include participatory activities (jam sessions and workshops) as well as storytelling and programs for kids of all ages. Several of the featured performers will be presenting workshops this year, and this is a good chance for people to interact with the talented artists. Workshops will be presented by Dom Flemons, Bryan Wilson, Jake Blount, Yasmin Williams and Ryan Koenig and the Goldenrods. Several jam sessions are open to the public and these include a Bluegrass Jam, Old-Time Jam, Blues Jam, Klezmer Jam, a Cajun/Creole Jam and an "Old and in the Way '' singalong with Jordan Kaye. People should bring their instruments and others are encouraged to attend, listen and enjoy these sessions. In addition, we will be streaming performances from the Rose Bowl on the Festival Facebook page and on Youtube. Even if people can't attend in person, they can still enjoy the streamed performances.

SP: Any artists you are most excited for this year?

Krumm: There are many. People should really try to see Nikki D. and the Browns, Son Monarcas, Jake Blount, Dom Flemons, Bryan Wilson and Family, Yasmin Williams, Los Texanos, and The Sternwheelers. The festival lineup is chock full of talented national, regional and local artists. Some of the local bands of note include The Dig 3, The Mean Lids,  Afro D and Global Soundwaves, Mhondoro Rhythm Success, Bashful Youngens, Big Daddy Pride, Paul Kotheimer. Los Guapos, and so many more.

SP: What do you hope people take away from the festival?

Krumm: We hope that people attend the festival, take in as many of the performances as possible, and enjoy live music once again. The Folk & Roots Festival takes place at a number of smaller venues, where people can have a "listening room" experience and really get a chance to listen up close and personal to the performers. We want families to attend the Family Programs, which take place on Saturday, October 23rd, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. During that time, all festival events are free (with donations welcomed).

You can find the full schedule for the festival on the website, as well as venues, workshop information, a map, and much more. There are a ton of performances, but here are a few you have to catch, as Rob mentioned above. 

Dom Flemons

Multi-instrumentalist Dom Flemons is a Grammy Award winner and known as “The American Songster.” He brings his skills on banjo, guitar, jugs, harmonica, as well as his voice. He will be performing Saturday from 3:00 – 4:00 p.m. at UFL Lewis Auditorium, as well as 8:00 – 9:15 p.m. at Rose Bowl Tavern. He is an act to catch. Check out his performance of "Hot Chicken."

Yasmin Williams

Yasmin Williams’ guitar playing is enchanting. Perfect timing, NPR just released her Tiny Desk Concert performance on Youtube. It’s a prime example of Williams’ unbelievably beautiful playing. Not much else to say other than check it out and don’t miss her performance on Saturday, 6:00 – 7:15 p.m. at Rose Bowl Tavern, as well as her guitar workshop on Saturday, 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. at C4A. Check out her Tiny Desk performance below.

Son Monarcas

Chicago-based Latin-folk fusion band Son Monarcas blend latin, soul, jazz, folk, son, and cumbia music. Their music is infectious and catchy and will take you on a wonderful journey between the US and Latin America. They will be performing Thursday, at 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. at  Krannert Center, as well as Friday from 9:00 – 10:15 p.m. at the Rose Bowl Tavern. Check out their music video for "Sonambula" below.

You can purchase tickets for the festival here. You can find the full day-by-day schedule here. Some performances will also be live streamed, so be sure to keep an eye on the website if you want to watch from home. 

Top photo from the CU Folk and Roots Facebook page.