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Old Folk: The Ark's Ann Arbor Folk Festival turns 40

Fri, 01/27/2017 - 9:01am by christopherporter

Ann Arbor Folk Festival

Leo Kottke's forehead graced the poster for the 18th edition of the Ann Arbor Folk Festival.

History is a mystery, even when you have direct access to media coverage of an event.

The first Ann Arbor Folk Festival was held June 13, 1976, headlined by John Prine and Leon Redbone. The show was hosted by the Power Center and, as always, it was to benefit The Ark, which was just 11 years old at that point and still in its original location, a house at 1421 Hill St.

Doug Fulton’s June 14, 1976, Ann Arbor News review of that first fest really only covers the early part of the evening -- newspaper print deadlines, you know -- and Prine and Redbone are mentioned with no commentary.

But Fulton did write a sentence that would reappear -- in slightly altered forms -- through much of The Ark’s existence: “The occasion was a benefit for the Ark, one of the few remaining 'coffee-houses' in the country still specializing in folk music of all kinds, and lately in financial trouble.”

In fact, The Ark could have just changed its name to Financial Trouble since the venue was constantly in jeopardy through the mid-'80s until this 1986 article declared otherwise: "The Ark No Longer Needs The Festival To Stay Afloat".

Since that first festival, and two moves later, The Ark is one of the most respected and well-oiled folk- and roots-music concert venues in the country, though the nonprofit still counts on the Ann Arbor Folk Festival for part of its operating revenue. This year’s edition, held January 27 and 28 at Hill Auditorium, has one of the festival’s biggest lineups yet, featuring headliners Kacey Musgraves and Jenny Lewis on Friday and the Indigo Girls, Margo Price, and Kiefer Sutherland (yes, him) on Saturday. (If you're somehow still undecided about going, The Ark has also compiled playlists for night one and night two of the fest.

But if the festival started in 1976, why is this weekend’s celebration its 40th, instead of the 42nd?

According to The Ark’s website, which lists lineups from every year of the festival, the event didn’t happen in 1977 or 1978. It came back in 1979 and has continued ever since. In 1982 the fest moved from the Power Center to the Michigan Theater and then in 1985 found its annual home at Hill Auditorium (save for one return to the Michigan in 2003).

The Ann Arbor News covered the festival every year -- we imagine. The library acquired the News’ archives in January 2010 and has been working on organizing and digitizing it, with updates at oldnews.aadl.org.

Since there are many moving and missing parts to the News’ archive, we couldn’t find Folk Fest articles and photos from every year. But we did find a hodge-podge of images that might jog your memories, plus a few YouTube clips from recent years. If you want to check out the what we've archived so far from the News' Folk Fest coverage at Old News, click here. Plus, you can check The Ark's own history of the Folk Fest here.

1976

Ann Arbor Folk Festival

Jay Ungar and David Bromberg were there from the start.

1978

OK, this news report is not about the Folk Fest, but it does show the state of The Ark at the time.

1982

Ann Arbor Folk Festival

Twins Sandor and Laszlo Slomovits perform as Gemini.

Ann Arbor Folk Festival

Percy "Mr. Bones" Danforth gets loose with his rhythm sticks.

1984

Ann Arbor Folk Festival

The MC for this year was mime O.J. Anderson. We'll leave you to your nightmares now.

Ann Arbor Folk Festival

David Bromberg has performed at the Folk Fest 10 times.

Ann Arbor Folk Festival

Pretty sure Steve Goodman just saw a mime.

1986

Ann Arbor Folk Festival

Arlo Guthrie made a surprise appearance at the 1985 Folk Fest, but he returned as the scheduled headliner this year.

1987

Ann Arbor Folk Festival

A clipping from The Ann Arbor News.

1988

Ann Arbor Folk Festival

Michigan bluegrass legends The RFD Boys twanged the night away.

Ann Arbor Folk Festival

Storyteller Jackie Torrence lets loose one of her captivating tales.

1989

Ann Arbor Folk Festival

John Prine helped launch the Folk Fest in 1976 and returned to headline 13 years later.

Ann Arbor Folk Festival

It's entirely possible that this Riders in the Sky member created beautiful music with his lasso.

1996

Ann Arbor Folk Festival

Even at 71-years-old, guitar pioneer Chet Akins brought the house down with his fierce fingerstyle playing.

Ann Arbor Folk Festival

Laura Love signing posters backstage.

Ann Arbor Folk Festival

Michael Hedges in rehearsal before the show.

1997

Ann Arbor Folk Festival

A clipping from The Ann Arbor News.

1999

Ann Arbor Folk Festival

Carrie Newcomer smiles at the folk(s).

Ann Arbor Folk Festival

A moody moment backstage with The Raisin Pickers.

2000

Ann Arbor Folk Festival

An animated Anne Hills entertains Hill Auditorium.

2002

Ann Arbor Folk Festival

We swear that's Eric Bibb under the hat.

Ann Arbor Folk Festival

David Grisman and Doc Watson rehearse before the gig -- as if these masters needed to do that.

2009

2014

2015

2016


Christopher Porter is a Library Technician and editor of Pulp.


The 40th Ann Arbor Folk Festival happens Friday, January 27, and Saturday, January 28, at Hill Auditorium. For the full lineups, times, tickets, and more information visit theark.org.

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Blog Post

John Glenn: 1921-2016

Thu, 12/08/2016 - 8:21pm by amy

Image removed.

John Glenn, American hero, U. S. senator, WWII and Korean War veteran, and icon of the Space Age, on the day he became the first American to orbit the earth.
Read the article.

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Blog Post

Pearl Harbor Day Meets Ann Arbor, July 1943

Wed, 12/07/2016 - 2:17pm by oldnews

Image removed.

Today we remember and honor the U. S. citizens who were killed in the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 7, 1941. Here in Ann Arbor, a strange piece of Pearl Harbor history was paraded through our streets in the summer of 1943. Give a listen to the Ann Arbor Stories Podcast, [:node/342957|The Suicide Sub Comes to Ann Arbor] for the quirky details, and take a look at the newspaper's coverage of the [:taxonomy/term/93954|Japanese Suicide Submarine Tour].

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Blog Post

Election Day in Ann Arbor ~ 80 Years Ago

Mon, 11/07/2016 - 6:28pm by amy

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80 years ago, on November 3, the News posted this "Electoral Thermometer" on the outside of its new building at 340 E. Huron St. Total electoral votes were then 531, with 266 needed to win. At this point in the day, candidates Franklin D. Roosevelt (Democrat) and Alf Landon (Republican) are neck and neck. The car parked at lower right with ladders sticking out the back is from the Ann Arbor Window Cleaning Co, which is presumably how they adjusted the "thermometer" as returns came in.

(You can click on the image to bring up a slightly bigger version, then click on the image once more and choose the "X" in the lower right-hand corner to enlarge it further.)

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Blog Post

Activist, Author and Politican Tom Hayden dies at 76

Mon, 10/24/2016 - 2:06pm by oldnews

Tom Hayden in Chicago
Tom Hayden in Chicago, 1971, by Leni Sinclair

Activist, lawmaker, author, and politician Tom Hayden died yesterday at 76. Hayden took the hard route towards politics with his involvement with the University of Michigan's Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and helped write one of the most significant 20th century political manifestos: the [w:Port Huron Statement. His participation in the disruption of the 1968 Democratic convention as one of the fabled "Chicago Seven" made him an international celebrity. Visits to Hanoi during the Vietnam War brought attention to the conflict in ways that were unpredictable at that time, and his marriage to Jane Fonda gave him a celebrity-status he never quite lived down.

Right or wrong, Hayden proved that one voice can make a difference in American politics. Conventionally unsuccessful, he nonetheless served as a model for democratic political participation in ways that more orthodox politicians would never have dared to attempt.

Watch AADL's 2014 video "A Call to Battle Against the Climate Crisis", Hayden's discussion on how Michigan and the Great Lakes region can move the U.S. towards the protections of a clean energy economy.

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Blog Post

Deja Vu All Over Again? Record Turnout For 1964 Presidential Election In Ann Arbor

Wed, 10/05/2016 - 7:49am by oldnews

Poll Lines

On November 3, 1964, the voters of Ann Arbor came to the polls to vote for President of the United States . . . and they came and they came. When the City Clerk finished counting, a new voter turnout record was set at 29,409. The Ann Arbor News tallies for Washtenaw County showed a 16,000 vote advantage for President Johnson over Barry Goldwater, a trend that was mirrored nationwide. Ann Arbor and the County also set a record for ticket-splitting, handing Governor Romney a sizable victory over Ann Arbor's Neil Staebler.

In the lead-up to the election, the News published a voter education guide, What You Should Know To Make Your Vote Count In 1964. The Guide featured profiles of the federal candidates and statewide candidates for Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State and Attorney General. You'll see some very familiar names on the page. Included were civics lesson on Courts in Michigan, local elections and general elections. The 1964 election stood out for another reason: for the first time voters would elect the Governor and Lt. Governor as a team from the same political party. There was only one statewide ballot proposal and the question will be very familiar to voters in 2016.

Fast forwarding to 2016, the Michigan League of Women Voters has produced a non-partisan Voter Guide that is available at all AADL branches. The Ann Arbor League of Women Voters has been conducting local candidate forums that are available from the CTN Video On Demand page as well being rerun throughout the election cycle on Channel 19.

The Ann Arbor City Clerk has a web site with all the info you'll need to vote. The last day to register to vote is Tuesday, October 11, 2016. If you're not sure if you're registered or your voter information is up-to-date, check it out on the SOS Michigan Vote site. If you'd like to vote absentee, you can print off the Application for Absentee Ballot directly or stop by one of AADL's branches and we'll be happy to print it out for you.

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Blog Post

Ann Arbor Yesterdays ~ How We Got To Here

Mon, 09/26/2016 - 7:44am by oldnews

Lela Duff

On February 12, 1960, Lela Duff launched a column in the Ann Arbor News called Ann Arbor Yesterdays that became so popular with readers that it ran for 75 weeks covering every aspect of local history in Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County. Ms. Duff was well known to thousands of Ann Arbor High School students but after 34 years of teaching English she retired and began her "second career" as a local historian.

Ann Arbor Yesterdays began, fittingly, with a discussion of the history of the naming of Ann Arbor. Her research was impeccable, using every available University, City, County and private archive and collection to tell the story of our development. Although historic buildings where a continual topic of the columns, Ms. Duff gave readers a rich tableau that included the immigrants who settled the area, theaterand civic organizations, music and recreation. The story of Lower Town and Downtown, the University and the names that made them possible. Ms. Duff devoted five columns to the early churches of Ann Arbor, from First Presbyterian to St. Thomas.

There were humorous columns on crime and youthful shenanigans. Two of the most heartfelt columns were a remembrance of Armistice Day, 1918 and Albert Warnhoff who made sure Christmas came to all children. Ms. Duff bid Ann Arbor News readers goodbye in July, 1961 and was immediately honored for her columns by the Historical Society of Michigan. And by October the columns became one of the most popular and enduring local history books in Ann Arbor. You'll want to check out a copy of Ann Arbor Yesterdaysfrom AADL to see the added illustrations and photos that bring to life the buildings and people from her columns. Ms. Duff continued to fight the good fight for historic preservation throughout her life. The "Grand Lady" of local history died in 1983 but her legacy lives on in her columns, her books and her commitment to our past.

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Blog Post

Ypsilanti Murder Still Unsolved After 70 Years

Thu, 09/22/2016 - 7:50pm by oldnews

On March 8, 1935, the frozen body of seven-year-old Richard Streicher Jr. was found under a bridge in Island Park in Ypsilanti by another youngster, Buck Holt. The brutal murder remains unsolved to this day. Local law enforcement quickly developed a profile of the killer and the lurid headlines of follow-up articles left nothing to conjecture on the part of readers. The Mayor of Ypsilanti went so far as to warn parents to keep their children indoors with a "maniac" on the loose. Richard's parents and relatives were brought in for questioning and the Michigan State Police were called in by Governor Fitzgerald to assist in the investigation.

Lead after lead went dry, suspects were interrogated and released, and new clues failed to develop. In August, Circuit Court Judge George W. Sample took the unusual step of convening a one-man grand jury to air all the evidence thus far to put an end to the "intense feeling and suspicion within the community" regarding the investigation. The grand jury stretched to three weeks as local law enforcement officials were grilled and reluctant witnesses held in contempt but in November, 1937, proceedings were indefinitely suspended. Leads in 1938 and 1939 proved fruitless as well.

Although Ann Arbor News coverage of the Streicher case all but ended in 1939, interest in the case continued in the county. A 2007 article in Ypsilanti Gleanings asked readers for any information they might have on the case.

Recently, an obituary appeared on MLive announcing a formal graveside service and that funds had been raised to provide for a beautiful headstone for young Richard Streicher Jr.

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Blog Post

Hugo Reichard and the Campus Radicals of 1940

Tue, 09/13/2016 - 1:07pm by amy

Hugo Reichard

We recently stumbled upon an envelope of Ann Arbor News photo negatives from September 1940 titled “Radical Demonstration on Behalf of Dismissed Student Reinhardt," which eventually led to information on the student in question (including the correct spelling of the name): Hugo Reichard. It turns out that Reichard, along with several writers for the student-run Michigan Daily and members of the campus left-leaning American Student Union (ASU) had been ousted by U-M President Alexander G. Ruthven for “radical” and “fifth-column" activities following an April peace rally on campus - a decision that caused considerable controversy among faculty and students that year.

In November, two months after the photographs were taken, an “open hearing” on behalf of the dismissed students, sponsored by the Michigan Civil Rights Federation and the Michigan Committee for Academic Freedom, took place off campus in Ann Arbor’s Island Park. Roughly 500 people - including students, faculty, and family members - attended, where lawyers and members of the UAW-CIO excoriated Ruthven’s decision as a violation of the students' civil rights. The Ann Arbor News briefly covered the event in two articles, “Protest meeting is held at park” and “Father upsets ouster trial,” and further weighed in with an editorial on the hearing organizers' brazen use of "Marxist techniques."

Meanwhile, Ruthven defended his position in a speech in Chicago, where he advised administrative officers and professors of colleges and universities to "rid themselves of the notion that romanticism, sentimentalism, and indiscriminate tolerance are essential constituents of democracy." And on Friday, November 16, several former Michigan Daily writers, now leading newspapermen around the country, voiced their opinions on the matter during the Daily’s 50th anniversary dinner held at the Michigan Union.

With World War II raging in Europe and the United States not yet committed, these were indeed interesting times. For more on this controversial moment in U-M's history, read the 2015 article "The Doves of 1940" in Michigan Today by James Tobin.

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Blog Post

Thomas E. Dewey Visits His Alma Mater

Tue, 09/06/2016 - 2:24pm by oldnews

thomas e. dewey

Crusading district attorney, governor of New York and two-time Republican nominee for president Thomas E. Dewey was a 1923 graduate of the University of Michigan with a soft spot in his heart for his alma mater. In July 1947, Dewey came with his wife Frances Hutt Dewey, and their two sons, Tom Jr. and John, to visit the campus and town. It was the year before his second run the presidency in 1948. Dewey suggested that the trip was to show his school to his 14-year-old Tom Jr., "a prospective student." He and his family met with UM President Alexander Ruthven, received a tour of the campus, including the Student Union, the office of the Michigan Daily and marveled at the growth of the school and town since he was an undergraduate.

At Michigan, Dewey was active on campus. He was editor of the Michigan Daily and performed in the campus choir. A photo from 1921 shows Dewey dressed as leprechaun for campus production of "Top of the Mornin'". He gave up a career in music for the law, attending Columbia University Law School. In 1956, Dewey returned again to UM campus to attend a meeting of Ann Arbor Republicans, meet with campus Young Republicans and promote the campaign of incumbent GOP President Dwight Eisenhower. Dewey was the first UM graduate to run for president of the United States. He was nominated in 1944 to run against incumbent President Franklin D. Roosevelt and in 1948 to run against incumbent Harry Truman. In 1958 the UM Board of Regents gave Dewey an award for Outstanding Achievement. Dewey was a native of Owosso, Mich.