Festival History

When Amy Beth and Melodee Ladd organized the first Woodstock Folk Festival in 1986, they didn’t know if there would even be a second one, let alone that it would continue to bring in the crowds for as many years as it has. Here’s a look at our legacy.

Each year on the Third Sunday of July, folk music lovers gather on the historic Woodstock Square in Woodstock, Illinois, for a day of music. All Festivals except the first have been on the Third Sunday of July, and all but two have been on the Woodstock Square. In 1993, the Festival had to move to the Old Court House Arts Center because it began to rain, and in 1991, it moved to the Congregational Unitarian Church, also due to rain.

Through 1999, the Festival only had a Main Stage. In 1994 Main Stage sets were expanded to 45 minutes which meant fewer performers than in the early years.

The All-Sing Finale happened every year, except perhaps 1987 when there is no written record of it.

Most years the Festivals have been hosted by Chuck VanderVennet. Since 2009 Folk DJ Rich Warren co-hosted with Chuck. In 1994 Steve Francois was MC.

For most years, Maurice Smeets has run the sound for the Main Stage except in 2001 when Alex McDougall had that job. There is no record of who ran sound in the early years.

The Woodstock Folk Festival’s first Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Art Thieme in 2002. As required, all recipients have been present at the Festival to receive their awards. The other award winners have been:

  • 2003: Ella Jenkins
  • 2004: Larry Penn
  • 2005: Amy Beth
  • 2006: Holly Near
  • 2007: Jim Post
  • 2008: Mark Dvorak
  • 2009: Michael Smith
  • 2010: Bonnie Koloc
  • 2011: Joann and Lee Murdock
  • 2012: Tom Paxton
  • 2013: Tricia Alexander
  • 2014: Andrew Calhoun
  • 2015: Kim and Reggie Harris
  • 2016: Bill Staines
  • 2017: Small Potatoes
  • 2018: Corky Siegel

In 2018, the Festival presented its Inaugural “Woody” Awards which recognize those who have made significant contributions to the music community outside the performance area. The 2018 recipients were Dave Humphreys, John Scharres, and Rich Warren.

During some years the Festival has received funding from the Illinois Arts Council. Since 2008 the Festival has received a grant for marketing from the City of Woodstock. The City has received in-kind contributions from numerous organizations as well as advertisements in the program from many businesses and organizations over the years.

The Woodstock Folk Festival is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and is entirely volunteer-run; there are no paid staff.

The Performers

Since the beginning, the Woodstock Folk Festival has been privileged to have the best performers gracing its Main Stage. We have also been proud of our Open Mic Stage Special Guests, our Children’s Area performers, and the leaders of our workshops.

July 15, 2018

Annie and the Hedonists (Annie Rosen, Jonny Rosen, Peter Davis, Don Young, and Jerry Marotta), Gathering Time (Stuart Markus, Hillary Foxsong, and Gerry McKeveny) with special guest Mara Levine, Donna Herula and Chris Walz (the third member Jon Spiegel cancelled due to illness), Crys Matthews, Ordinary Elephant (Crystal and Pete Damore), and Garnet Rogers performed on the Main Stage. Spook Handy opened the Festival and led the All-Sing Finale. Jim Gary was the Featured Performer at the Open Mic Stage. Corky Siegel received the 17th Annual Lifetime Achievement Award and performed on the Main Stage. Chuck VanderVennet and Rich Warren co-hosted the Open Mic Stage. Maurice Smeets provided sound at the Main Stage and Andy Andrick provided sound at the Open MicStage. Gloria Burchfield and Mark Lyons co-hosted the Open Mic Stage. Annie and the Hedonists gave a Workshop on “Songs of Bob Dylan.” The Children’s Area, coordinated by Suzanne Campbell and Linda Howanietz, featured hands-on activities. Radio Partners were WDCB/90.9FM, WFMT/98.FM, and WNUR/89.3FM. The Festival also received some support from the City of Woodstock and Real Woodstock. Real Woodstock and Promote Woodstock sponsored Garnet Rogers’ performance at the Festival as well as a concert at Stage Left Cafe on Festival Eve and a book signing at Read Between the Lynes bookstore. They also sponsored a concert featuring Chris Jones & The Night Drivers and the Fox Crossing Stringband at Niko’s Red Mill Tavern on Friday night, thereby creating “Folk Weekend,” which they heavily promoted. The Woodstock Opera House presented Corky Siegel in concert on Festival Eve. Annie and the Hedonists were featured on “Folkstage” on WFMT on Festival Eve; WDCB featured last year’s WFF performer Michael Johnathon and Festival President Carol Obertubbesing on Tuesday night, July 10; and Sue Kessell interviewed Carol Obertubbesing on WNUR’s “The Folk Show” on Sunday, July 1. Sirius/XM Satellite Radio “60s on 6” mentioned the Festival.

July 16, 2017

Bettman & Halpin, Mari Black, Pat Donohue, David Hawkins (accompanied by Elliott Delman and Clark Sommers), Joan & Joni (Allison Shapira and Kipyn Martin), Michael Johnathon, and The Malvinas (Beth Cahill, Gina Forsyth, and Lisa Markley) performed on the Main Stage. David Hawkins led the All-Sing Finale. Briar Road (Dan Zahn, Kate Moretti, and Rusty Winchel) were the Featured Performers at the Open Mic Stage. Jacquie Manning and Rich Prezioso aka Small Potatoes received the 16th Annual Lifetime Achievement Award. Chuck VanderVennet and Rich Warren co-hosted the Main Stage. Gloria Burchfield and Mark Lyons co-hosted the Open Mic Stage. Maurice Smeets provided sound at the Main Stage and Andy Andrick provided sound at the Open Mic Stage. Mark Lyons offered a Ukulele Workshop at the Open Mic Stage. The Children’s Area featured hands-on activities. Radio Partners were WDCB/90.9FM, WFMT/98.7FM, and WNUR/89.3FM. The Festival also received some support form the City of Woodstock and Real Woodstock. The Malvinas were featured on “Folkstage” on WFMT on Festival Eve; WDCB featured Small Potatoes live on the Tuesday night “Folk Festival” program; WNUR had an interview with Festival President Carol Obertubbesing. Sirius/XM Satellite Radio “60s on 6” also featured an interview.

July 17, 2016

Tret Fure, Hounds of Finn, Reverend Robert B. Jones, Heather Pierson Acoustic Trio, Woody Pines, Small Potatoes, and Villa Palagonia performed on the Main Stage. Small Potatoes also led the All-Sing Finale. Big Fish (Marty Brunkalla, Deb Firak, Kent Fishburn, and Al Fyfe) were the Featured Performers at the Open Mic Stage. Bill Staines received the 15th Annual Lifetime Achievement Award. Chuck VanderVennet and Rich Warren co-hosted the Main Stage; Gloria Burchfield and Mark Lyons co-hosted the Open Mic Stage; Maurice Smeets provided sound at the Main Stage and Andy Andrick provided sound at the Open Mic Stage. The Children’s Area featured hands-on activities. Radio Partners were WDCB/90.9FM, WFMT/98.7FM, and WNUR/89.3FM. The Festival also received some support from the City of Woodstock and Real Woodstock. Woody Pines was featured on “Folkstage” on WMT on Festival Eve and the Woodstock Opera House presented Megon McDonough, with a reception sponsored by the Festival, that night.

July 19, 2015

Ellen Bukstel, Peter Mulvey, Mustard’s Retreat, Danny Santos, Sons of the Never Wrong, Spuyten Duyvil, and Matt Watroba performed on the Main Stage. Matt Watroba also led the All-Sing Finale. Cheryl Niemo and the Down Home Boys were the Featured Performers at the Open Mic Stage. Kim and Reggie Harris received the 14th Annual Lifetime Achievement Award. Chuck VanderVennet and Rich Warren co-hosted the Main Stage; Gloria Burchfield and Mark Lyons co-hosted the Open Mic Stage; Maurice Smeets provided sound at the Main Stage and Andy Andrick provided sound at the Open Mic Stage. The Children’s Area featured hands-on activities. Radio Partners were WDCB/90.9FM, WFMT/98.7FM, and WNUR/89.3FM.

July 20, 2014

Amy Black, Harpeth Rising, The Honey Dewdrops, Old Man Luedecke, Megon McDonough, and Don White (Christine Lavin had been scheduled to perform with Don White but had to cancel due to illness) performed on the Main Stage. Guyz With Bad Eyez (Merv Collins and Don Humbertson) were the Featured Performers at the Open Mic Stage. Andrew Calhoun received the 13th Annual Lifetime Achievement Award. Chuck VanderVennet and Rich Warren co-hosted the Main Stage; Gloria Burchfield and Mark Lyons co-hosted the Open Mic Stage. Maurice Smeets provided sound at the Main Stage and Andy Andrick provided sound at the Open Mic Stage. The Children’s Area featured hands-on activities. Radio Partners were WDCB/90.9FM, WFMT/98.7FM, and WNUR/89.3FM.

July 21, 2013

Judith Avers, Brother Sun (Greg Greenway, Joe Jencks, and Pat Wictor), Emily Elbert, Donna Herula (and Tony Nardiello), Red Tail Ring (Michael Beauchamp and Laurel Premo), and the Sultans of String (Drew Birston, Kevin Laliberte, and Chris McKhool) performed on the Main Stage. Rune was the Featured Performer at the Open Mic Stage. Tricia Alexander received the 12th Annual Lifetime Achievement Award. Chuck VanderVennet and Rich Warren co-hosted the Main Stage; Mark Lyons and Gloria Burchfield co-hosted the Open Mic Stage. The Children’s Area featured hands-on activities. Radio Partners were WDCB/90.9FM, WFMT/98.7FM, and WNUR/89.3FM.

July 15, 2012

Kate MacLeod & Kat Eggleston, Tim Grimm, Rj Cowdery, Joe Jencks, Anne Hills and Small Potatoes (Jacquie Manning and Rich Prezioso) performed on the Main Stage; The Georgia Rae Family Band was the Featured Performer at the Open Mic Stage; Mark Lyons and Jean Adaskavich performed in the Children’s Area; Lil’ Rev (Mark Revson) presented a Ukelele Workshop; Tom Paxton received the 11th Annual Lifetime Achievement Award.

July 17, 2011

Albert and Gage (Christine Albert and Chris Gage), Old Sledge (Chance McCoy, Sabra Guzman, Luke Richardson, Jake Hopping), Claudia Schmidt, Tangleweed (Paul Wargaski, Billy Oh, Kenneth Rainey, and Scott Judd), Pat Wictor, and Doug and Telisha Williams performed on the Main Stage; Macyn Taylor was the Featured Performer at the Open Mic Stage; Amy Beth, Gary Plazyk, and Lia McCoo performed in the Children’s Area; Colin O’Brien presented a Foot Percussion Workshop; Joann and Lee Murdock received the 10th Annual Lifetime Achievement Award.

July 18, 2010

In celebration of its 25th year, the Festival extended its hours from noon to 6:30 p.m. Proclamations in honor of the 25th were issued by Governor Pat Quinn, Representative Jack Franks, and Woodstock Mayor Brian Sager. State Senator Pamela Althoff helped facilitate the Governor’s proclamation. U.S. Rep. Melissa Bean visited the Festival. The Flyin’ A’s (Stuart and Hilary Claire Adamson), Greg Greenway, The Henhouse Prowlers, Meg Hutchinson, Joel Mabus, and Sons of the Never Wrong performed on the Main Stage. The Festival celebrated fellow folk music organizations that are part of the Woodstock folk community year-round by featuring “Best of Woodstock” segments programmed by those three organizations: Amy Beth and Friends, Masthouse, and Off Square Music. The Kishwaukee Ramblers performed on behalf of Amy Beth and Friends. Andy Andrick, Laurel Palma, Becky Seip, and Annemarie Serra performed on behalf of Masthouse. Andy Andrick, Marty Brunkalla, Debbie Firak, and Kent Fishburn performed on behalf of Off Square Music. Those three organizations also selected the Featured Performers on the Open Mic Stage. Laura Doherty and Lia McCoo performed in the Children’s Area. Laura Doherty led a hands-on Guitar Workshop. The Festival presented its Ninth Annual Lifetime Achievement Award to Bonnie Koloc. In celebration of the Festival’s 25th year, the Woodstock Opera House presented Bonnie in concert on Saturday night, July 17 (Festival eve).

July 19, 2009

John Flynn, Magpie (Terry Leonino and Greg Artzner), The Jamie O’Reilly Trio (Jamie O’Reilly, Michael Smith, and Bob Weber), Still on the Hill (Kelly Mulhollan and Donna Stjerna), Trillium (Mim Eichmann, Ed Hall, Doug Lofstrom, and Paul Russell), and Natalia Zukerman performed on the Main Stage; Compass (Dave Borton, Tom Bradfish, Diccon Lee, Jerry Thiel, and Chuck VanderVennet) was the Special Guest at the Open Mic Stage; John Flynn and Magpie performed at the Children’s Area; Joe Filisko led a Harmonica Workshop; Michael Smith received the Eighth Annual Woodstock Folk Festival Lifetime Achievement Award.

July 20, 2008

Lou and Peter Berryman, Devil in a Woodpile (Rick Sherry, Tom Ray, Joel Paterson), Martine Locke, Twilight Hotel (Brandy Zdan and Dave Quanbury), Dennis Warner, and Randall Williams performed on the Main Stage; Jim Green aka The Wandering Endorphin was the Special Guest at the Open Mic Stage; Anna Stange and Dennis Warner performed at the Children’s Area; Michael J. Taylor led a Percussion Workshop; Mark Dvorak received the Seventh Annual Woodstock Folk Festival Lifetime Achievement Award.

July 15, 2007

Trina Hamlin, Mark Hobbs, Jeff and Vida (Jeff Burke and Vida Wakeman), Lee Murdock, Nervous But Excited (Kate Peterson and Sarah Cleaver), and Amy Speace performed at the Main Stage; The SASS! Trio (Sandy Andina, Susan Urban, and Kate Early) was the Special Guest at the Open Mic Stage; Bear Creek (Gary Plazyk and Rob Middleton) and Amy Beth performed at the Children’s Area; Congress of Starlings (Andrea Bunch and Aerin Tedesco) led a Vocal Harmony Workshop; Jim Post received the Sixth Annual Woodstock Folk Festival Lifetime Achievement Award.

July 16, 2006

Curtis and Loretta, Bob Franke, Brent Hoodenpyle, Julie Loyd, Lucky Break, and Holly Near performed at the Main Stage; JW Rice was the Special Guest at the Open Mic Stage; Mark Lyons and Jean Adaskavich performed at the Children’s Area; Bob Franke presented a Songwriting Workshop; Holly Near received the Fifth Annual Woodstock Folk Festival Lifetime Achievement Award.

July 17, 2005

The 20th Annual Festival began with a Masthouse Sing-along to celebrate their 25th Anniversary; Mark Dvorak, Anne Hills, Rod MacDonald, Carol Ponder, Claudia Russell, and Small Potatoes (Jacquie Manning and Rich Prezioso) performed at the Main Stage; Hartland Express (Roger Schiller and Chris Strong celebrating 35 years as a folk singing duo) was the Special Guest at the Open Mic Stage (this was the first year we had a Special Guest at the Open Mic Stage); Amy Beth, Carole Peterson and Alvin McGovern, and Carol Ponder performed in the Children’s Area; a Story Stage featured Fred Berchtold, Sue Black, The Double Deckers (Jim and Karen Decker), Marcia Gutierrez, Nancy Neckerman, Eddie Richter, Nancy Shapiro-Pikelny, and Andy Talley; Mark Dvorak led “A Spontaneous Folk Ensemble” Workshop; Festival Co-Founder Amy Beth received the Fourth Annual Woodstock Folk Festival Lifetime Achievement Award.

July 18, 2004

Ellis, Pat Gaughan, Erika Luckett, Megon McDonough, Chris McIntosh & Alvin McGovern, and Michael Miles performed at the Main Stage; Amy Beth, Carla Gibson, Donna Brooks, and educators from the McHenry Music Center performed in the Children’s Area; a Story Stage featured Amy Beth, Fred Berchtold, Sue Black, Ted Cunningham, The Double Deckers (Jim and Karen Decker), Eddie Richter, and The Memory Makers of McHenry County; Michael Miles led a Banjo Workshop; Larry Penn received the Third Annual Woodstock Folk Festival Lifetime Achievement Award.

July 20, 2003

Amy Beth, Andy Cohen, Kim and Reggie Harris, Beth Horner (storyteller), John Lilly, Carol Ponder, and Dana Robinson performed at the Main Stage; Anna Stange performed at the Children’s Area; the Story Stage featured Fred Berchtold, Sue Black, The Double Deckers (Jim and Karen Decker), Judy Farrow-Busack, Beth Horner, Phyllis Horst, Joe Jekot, Ann Katzenberg, Carol Kerman, Kucha, Linda Markut, and The Memory Makers of Lake County; Andy Cohen gave a “Everything That Is Not Blues Workshop”; Ella Jenkins received the Second Annual Woodstock Folk Festival Lifetime Achievement Award.

July 21, 2002

Amy Beth, Mike & Amy Finders, Fragment, Anne Hills, Peg Lehman, Masthouse Presents (artists selected by Masthouse), and On the Mainline (Joe Filisko and Anita Miller) performed at the Main Stage; Anna Stange and others performed in the Children’s Area; Art Thieme received the First Annual Woodstock Folk Festival Lifetime Achievement Award; Anne Hills and Lou and Peter Berryman presented a Songwriting Workshop.

July 15, 2001

Amy Beth, Acie Cargill, Four Shillings Short (Aodh Og O’Tuama and Chrisy Martin), Dave Fox and Will Branch, O’Hara and Laffey (Kathy O’Hara and Diane Laffey), Shanks Pony, Small Potatoes (Jacquie Manning and Rich Prezioso) performed on the Main Stage; Alvin McGovern, Carole Peterson, and Becky Seip performed in the Children’s Area; Rich Prezioso of Small Potatoes led a Guitar Workshop.

July 16, 2000

Amy Beth, Steve and Sylvia Francois, Malkum Gibson and Chris Kleeman, Art Lang and Cathy Ciolak, Rick Neeley, Tom Pease, and Jack Williams performed at the Main Stage; Tom Pease performed in the Children’s Area; this was the first year we had a Children’s Area and an Open Mic Stage.

July 18, 1999

Amy Beth and Del Hadaway, The Double Deckers (storytellers Karen and Jim Decker), The Jones Family (Tom, Anne and Cathy Jones), Lil’ Rev (Marc Revinson), Chris McIntosh & Alvin McGovern, On the Mainline (Joe Filisko and Anita Miller), Dan Zahn and Chris McNamara performed on the Main Stage.

July 19, 1998

Amy Beth and Mark Lyons, Fermilab International Folk Dancers, Glammis Hill (John and Janet), Jim May (storyteller), One Drum Ensemble (David Stocker and Jahmes Finlayson), Sammy from Miami (Sam Byerly), Pat Walke and Mike Mumm performed at the Main Stage.

July 20, 1997

Amy Beth, Don Falkos (storyteller), Innisfree (Lynn Malnekoff, Kathy Folkerts, Ken and Angi Kieltyka, Tony Janacek, and Bobbi Hurst), Diane Ippel and Rob Williams, L.J. Slavin, Eric Noden, and Whyte Knuckles (Debbie Hackett, Dave Borton, and John Cavalier) performed at the Main Stage.

July 21, 1996

Tricia Alexander, Amy Beth, Mark Dvorak, Chris McIntosh & Alvin McGovern, Bonnie Perry and Debbie Lynn, Rollin’ & Tumblin’ (Jim Fraher and John Jochem) performed at the Main Stage.

July 16, 1995

Amy Beth, Steve and Sylvia Francois, KG & the Ranger, Eddie Richter (storyteller), Sons of the Never Wrong (Bruce Roper, Sue Demel, and Nancy Walker), Patty Stevenson, Paul and Marcia Watson performed at the Main Stage.

July 17, 1994

Amy Beth, Beggar’s Alley, Tom Clark, Innisfree (see above for members), Jim Kanas Trio, KG & the Ranger, Anita Silvert, Dwain Story & Chloris Noelke, Stuart Stotts, Wild Rice performed at the Main Stage.

July 18, 1993

Amy Beth, Dona Benkert & Friends, Dos Boys, Innercircle Gospel, Peg Lehman, MPMN, Pete Norman, Ravenswood Morris Dancers, and Barbara Silverman performed at the Main Stage.

July 19, 1992

Amy Beth, Casey’s Fancy (Martha Mitchell, Bob Whitsitt, Mike Raridon, Bill Graham), Gospel Sing with Lloyd Michalsen, Diane Ippel and Rob Williams, Don and Eunice Mast, David Stoeri, Stuart Stotts, Traditional Mexican Dancers, Pat Walke and Mike Mumm performed at the Main Stage.

July 21, 1991

Beggar’s Alley, Amy Beth, Bridges, Mary Eagle, Steve and Sylvia Francois, Peg Lehman, Mary Norris, and Mick Scott performed at the Main Stage.

July 15, 1990

Dan and Dona Benkert, Beggar’s Alley, Amy Beth and Odette Musiel, Robbie Clement, Steve and Sylvia Francois, Live Bait, and Mac Robertson performed at the Main Stage.

July 16, 1989

Amy Beth and Odette Musiel, Dos Boys, Steve and Sylvia Francois, Betsy Greene and Lynne Whitaker, Jim Kanas, Peg Lehman, Live Bait, Don and Eunice Mast, The Rische Family, Gary and Nancy Ryall, and The Tomlinson Family performed at the Main Stage.

July 17, 1988

John Allison, Amy Beth and Odette Musiel, Steve and Sylvia Francois, Jerry Helt, Live Bait, Eunice and Don Mast, Sean and Shiela O’Donnell, The Rische Family Band, Alex Roberts, Gary and Nancy Ryall, Weekend Wages/Rich and Chris Strong performed at the Main Stage.

July 19, 1987

Perry Baird, Amy Beth and Odette Musiel, Dave and Penny Fox, Steve and Sylvia Francois, Warren Fremling, Pat Gaughan, Jennifer Jeffreys and Paul Watkins, Jim Kanas Trio, Mark and Lynne Rische, Alex Roberts, Sam Schaefer, Willy Sterba, Weekend Wages/Rich and Chris strong (listed as a 5-piece bluegrass band), and Bob Zoeb (spelling may be incorrect since there were only handwritten notes for this year) performed on the Main Stage.

July 6, 1986

Perry Baird, Amy Beth, Dave Burton, Warren Fremling, George Kazlusky, Jim Keane, Larry Lagerhausen, Melissa Marosy, Don and Eunice Mast, Jim May (storyteller), Don Mormon, Odette Musiel, Alex Roberts, Chris Strong, Susan Urban and Jane Moyer.

Have we missed anything? Please let us know.