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Annual Tucson Folk Festival spotlights Western music

The+band+Raggedy+Edge+performs+at+the+Tucson+Folk+Festival+on+April+7.+They+play+their+song+Watch+the+Stars.
Emma Diaz
The band Raggedy Edge performs at the Tucson Folk Festival on April 7. They play their song “Watch the Stars.”

For a place as diverse as Tucson, nothing quite shows the artistic spirit of Southern Arizona like the Tucson Folk Festival. The Tucson Folk Festival is a yearly, free festival that has been held in Downtown Tucson since 1986. This year marked the festivals 39th annual run and was held April 5 to 7.

The event is free for everyone who attends and includes six different stages with the skyline of Downtown Tucson set as the backdrop. The main draw for the festival is the plethora of folk bands that perform. 

Folk is a music tradition that was revived in the 1960s and 1970s that combines elements of rock and country. However, despite being called the Folk Festival, any genre of music is allowed and even encouraged.

The festival features more than 300 musicians and is completely volunteer-run. Additionally, this year the event hosted 11 food vendors, which are what actively funds the festival and allows it to remain free for everyone. The venue stresses the importance of supporting local businesses to keep the fun going.

Bessett & Callahan perform at the Tucson Folk Festival on April 7. The festival has six stages where performers circulate all day. (Emma Diaz)

Matt Rolland is the board president for the Tucson Kitchen Music Association and the director of the festival. When asked about the mission of the festival Rolland said, “Part of the vision, we think, of the festival is to show the music in this fine community and showcase Downtown Tucson. To me, really, the best part of the festival is seeing friends and musicians come together. Relationships are formed here, people fall in love here and it’s amazing I can provide that to Tucson.” 

Many of those performing are there for the love of the community and to hone their craft. The Senators is a local Tucson based folk band that performed for its second year at the festival. 

“We played here in the past,” Jesse Teer, lead singer of The Senators, said. “This is actually our first year on the main stage and we’re pretty hyped.” 

The Senators are unique in that it utilizes an upright bass to add a more grounded feel to its music. Teer describes his band’s style as including elements of country and of course, folk. 

“We’ve been through a lot of styles, but we always wanted to include storytelling in our music and just bring together the community,” Teer said.

Some of the fans who attended the event came from far and wide to view the festival. 

Steve Guy is from Manchester, United Kingdom and is friends with the bassist for Hot Club of Tucson, another band that performed at the festival. He arrived in San Francisco and drove from California to watch his friend on tour. 

“Back in the ’80s and ’90s, I saw them tour three times and that’s why I’m here. Not only are the bassist and I acquainted, but I just love their music in general. Their music is very folk-oriented too,” Guy said.

The Tucson Folk Festival takes place annually in early April and dates for the 2025 edition will be announced on the Tucson Folk Festival website.


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