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Three-year National Folk Festival expected to bring $60 million to Jackson

Folk Festival
Photo courtesy of the city of Jackson

For the first time in state history, Mississippi will be hosting the National Folk Festival.

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba announced on Tuesday that the nation’s preeminent traveling celebration of traditional culture will be located in the capital city for a three-year stint from 2025-27. The National Folk Festival is the nation’s longest-running traditional arts event and is a free, three-day, outdoor multicultural display of music, dance, and traditional arts.

During its three-year residency, the National Folk Festival is expected to draw over 330,000 visitors to downtown Jackson, generate over $60 million in long-term economic impacts for the city and the region, and lay the groundwork for a locally produced festival to continue after the national one moves on to its next site.

Produced by the non-profit National Council for the Traditional Arts, the National Folk Festival has been presented in nearly 30 cities across the country since its inception in 1934. The NCTA partners with communities nationwide to present the festival free to the public for three years with the understanding that the local host community will strive to continue its own festival in future years.

“On behalf of the City of Jackson, I want to express how excited and honored we are to host the National Folk Festival,” Lumumba said. “We like to say that Mississippi is the birthplace of America’s music, and we’re bringing the festival home.”

Jackson was chosen in a nationwide competitive process that began in the spring of 2023. A proposal was submitted by the City of Jackson’s Planning and Development Department. NCTA representatives visited the capital city last November to evaluate its suitability for the multiple-stage event.

The mayor’s office, Visit Jackson, Downtown Jackson Partners, the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership, the Community Foundation for Mississippi, the Mississippi Arts Commission, the Mississippi Humanities Council, and Visit Mississippi came together to make the case for Jackson to host the major event.

“Jackson has been impressive throughout this process, and the NCTA together with its board of directors is inspired and energized to begin this partnership in such a culturally rich community,” NCTA Executive Director Blaine Waide said. “Mississippi is blessed with an exemplary legacy of arts and culture, and we could not be more excited to launch this festival in Jackson’s historic downtown while showcasing our nation’s finest traditional artists alongside celebrations of the state’s vibrant cultural traditions.”

The festival will bring with it as many as six stages of continuous music, traditional crafts, regional and culturally diverse foods, storytelling, parades, and folklife demonstrations. The artistic traditions of all Americans, from those generations old to more contemporary forms of expression, will be displayed.

The second year of the National’s residency in Jackson in 2026 will coincide with the commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the signing of the United States Declaration of Independence. The festival will be an official event for Mississippi’s statewide efforts to commemorate the semi-quincentennial, known as America250.

Since its founding in St. Louis, Mo., the National Folk Festival has celebrated the roots of American culture. Championed in its early years by Eleanor Roosevelt, it was the first event of national stature to present the artistic traditions of all Americans on equal footing. It was also the first to present to the public musical forms such as the blues, Cajun music, polka, Tex-Mex conjunto, Peking Opera, and many others.

The festival will kick off in Jackson in November 2025.

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