Morris Dancers

Boneyard Morris DancersMorris dance is a traditional dance from England that has been done for hundreds of years. There are several references to Morris dance in Shakespeare. Each village or region has its own set of dances. Come check out this unique form of dance demonstrated by our local Morris dancers! Audience members will be encouraged to try it out too.

Ukulele Workshop (all ages) with Steve Meadows

Local music educator and multi-instrumentalist Steve Meadows will demonstrate and discuss the basic skills you’ll need to play the ukulele in this workshop. Topics covered include instrument anatomy/terminology, basic chord voicings, right hand techniques, and tablature. There will be about a dozen loaner ukuleles available (first come, first serve) so don’t worry if you don’t own one!

Family Dance with Barb Silverman and Colby Maddox

Barb Silverman dancingThe whole family can jump in on this one: circles, squares and contra dances (two lines) made easy and fun. Each dance will be explained step by step, and dances chosen will be simplified for young and eager dancers. We will even learn a few basic clogging steps to stir the beginnings of improvised old-time dancing. Mom, Dad, Grandma and Junior, put on your dancing shoes.

Barb Silverman and Colby Maddox

Barb SilvermanAcclaimed as a “stunning vocalist, master teacher, and folk festival in a box,” Barbara Silverman has performed for three decades solo and with The Laketown Buskers, The Teflons, The Schticklers and Silver Rose. Appearances include Prairie Home Companion, Pritzker Pavilion, Chicago Symphony Center, openers for Emmy Lou Harris, Odetta, and Arlo Guthrie, and seven CD recordings. Barb is on the music and dance faculty of Old Town School of Folk Music, and was chosen for their first international trip to England and Finland.

Colby MaddoxColby Maddox toured with Special Consensus Bluegrass Band, won first prize at the 2006 Rocky Grass mandolin competition in Lyons, Colorado, and teaches fiddle and mandolin at the Old Town School of Folk Music. Recent side projects include playing on the soundtrack for the PBS documentary The Hayloft Gang: The Story of the National Barn Dance, narrated by Garrison Keillor, and singing on the soundtrack for the Newberry Library’s Homemakers of the Civil War: Sheet Music.

Barb and Colby will perform twice at the festival. Their Prairie Breezes appearance is in collaboration with the Urbana Free Library, a concert series that is especially for the whole family!

Campfire Singalong with Rebecca Grosser and Hilary Valentine

Hillary Valentine and Rebecca Grosser

Join old-time musicians Rebecca Grosser (guitar) and Hilary Valentine (mountain dulcimer) to sing songs of the Carter Family – the “First Family of Country Music,” including “Keep on the Sunny Side,” “Storms Are On The Ocean,” “I’m Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes,” “Anchored in Love,” and many more. Acoustic instruments are welcome – bring your autoharp, guitar, mandolin, etc. Rebecca and Hilary live in Champaign, Illinois where they regularly lead singalongs and playalongs, and are both in local old-time bands.

Anne Shimojima, Featured Storyteller Performance

Anne ShimojimaA retired elementary library media specialist, Anne Shimojima has performed literary stories, historical pieces, and folk tales from her Asian heritage and around the world for the past 30+ years. A Teller-in-Residence at the International Storytelling Center in 2014, she has also told at The Exchange Place of the National Storytelling Festival, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Illinois Storytelling Festival, the 1st Asian American Storytelling Festival, and schools, libraries, museums, gardens, book fairs, and conferences.  Anne also gives workshops on the use of storytelling in education and the creation of family history projects. 

Harmonica Workshop with Dave Witzany (beginning)

It’s easy to begin to learn to play harmonica!  Dave will lead the group using key of C diatonic 10 hole harmonicas to help you learn about the instrument and to begin playing melodies and blues.  Come at 10:30 and learn the basics of the harmonica–how to hold it, how to play single notes, and how to play simple melodies. Stick around at 11:30 for more harmonica fun, including some simple effects and an introduction to the blues.  Dave will have a petting zoo of his own harmonicas and books on the subject–bring your questions!

If you have a C diatonic, you can bring your own harmonica  to the lesson. For those who don’t have one, there will be a limited number of free harmonicas available, as well as additional inexpensive harmonicas for purchase, thanks to assistance from Corson Music. We encourage you to come out to the workshops and try out this soulful instrument that you can carry in your pocket!

Dave has been a fan of local music since he came to the U of I in the early 80′s and has a long involvement with WEFT community radio. Mainly an audience member, he’s occasionally played harmonica with local bands like the Prairie Jam Band and the Prairie Dogs.

Dance Try-Its

Yes, you CAN have it all! Spend a delightful hour-and-a-half learning three different dance traditions.

Irish dances with Daniel Flora

Daniel FloraBorn to parents in the Foreign Service (Diplomatic Corps), Daniel Flora learned to love Irish dancing while living in Europe and Canada. He also learned to play the bodhran and honed his skills playing at Irish sessions, including the local session at Dublin O’Neil’s. He is currently an instructor in Balkan and Irish Dances for the Illini Folk Dance Society, and has begun teaching Irish set dancing in the Champaign-Urbana area.




Simple English and Scandinavian dances with Jon and Sue Hanson

Sue and Jon HansonJon and Sue Hanson have been involved in traditional dance since their college days. Originally from Illinois, they moved to California just after college where they were active in both International Folk Dance and Scandinavian Dance. They returned to Illinois in the 1990s and have been members of the Central Illinois English Country Dancers ever since. Jon and Sue enjoy sharing the dances they have learned. In their classes, they emphasize fun and easy dances that everyone can do.



The Dance Try-Its session is sponsored by the Illini Folk Dance Society.