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The Woody Guthrie Folk Festival Moves Online

From left to right, Arlo Guthrie, David Amram, Joel Rafael and Hank Woji perform at the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival in Okemah in July 2019.
M. Tim Blake
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From left to right, Arlo Guthrie, David Amram, Joel Rafael and Hank Woji perform at the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival in Okemah in July 2019.

Since 1998, thousands of people have congregated each summer in musician Woody Guthrie’s hometown of Okemah for the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival, but plans have shifted this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The festival will be held virtually beginning on Guthrie’s birthday, Tuesday, July 14, and will continue on Saturday and Sunday, July 18 and 19.

Pre-recorded performances will be shown from artists like Jason Mraz, Graham Nash, Glen Hansard and Arlo Guthrie. Online workshops will take place Saturday afternoon related to topics like Native American music and songs that draw attention to social and cultural issues. 

Miranda Huff, treasurer of the Woody Guthrie Coalition, said organizers worked hard to stay true to what the physical festival would be like. While moving it online was challenging, she said the virtual festival created new opportunities. 

“While we’ll definitely miss being in Okemah, the opportunity that having a festival this way has given us to expand our audience and maybe bring in some artists who probably couldn’t make it to Okemah for a physical festival," Huff said.

On an average year, the festival attracts up to 3,000 attendees and has a significant economic impact on local businesses in Okemah. 

Huff hopes having the festival online this year will encourage more people to make the trek to Okemah in the future. 

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