NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — The New Jersey Folk Festival will mark its 45th year this Saturday, April 27 at the Eagleton Woodlawn in New Brunswick, also the same day Rutgers Day is occurring. This year’s festival is expected to draw nearly 20,000 and will highlight Turkish customs and traditions, Native Americans in New Jersey, bluegrass and more.
This year is especially significant, as the festival’s creator and director, Rutgers American studies professor Angus Gillespie, is stepping down. For more than four decades, Gillespie has helped students build their career skills and a respect for the folk arts as they manage all aspects of the festival from beginning to end.
The folklorist and American studies professor at the Rutgers-New Brunswick School of Arts and Sciences has studied local legends and cultural folk arts throughout the Garden State and brought music, crafts and other customs to tens of thousands through the New Jersey Folk Festival over the past 45 years. Along the way, Gillespie – who is stepping down this year from the annual festival he created – has inspired generations of students who have helped manage the festival.
“I have loved this job and the hard-working undergraduate students I have worked with. After 45 years, though, I am ready for new challenges,” Gillespie said, noting that the New Jersey Folk Festival began with a staff of one as part of an arts campaign at Rutgers in 1975 and has evolved into one of a few large-scale student-run events in the country.
Gillespie will continue to teach at the School of Arts and Sciences, and the festival will go on under new faculty leadership in 2020.
This year’s New Jersey Folk Festival on April 27, at the Eagleton Woodlawn in New Brunswick, blends themes from the last five festivals, with feature exhibits on Native Americans of New Jersey, maritime folklore, Turkish traditions and bluegrass.
For the past four decades, Gillespie has been guiding his students in careful research of New Jersey cultural groups and their traditions, like the “Pineys” and the Kalmyk community of Howell, N.J., hoping to instill a respect for folklore, both traditional and revivalist. However, he says it’s the career skills they develop – event management, artist and vendor relations, and advertising and marketing – that help bring the festival’s live music and performance, arts, crafts and food to life.
The New Jersey Folk Festival takes place on Saturday, April 27, 2019, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Eagleton Woodlawn in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Attendees can also participate in Rutgers Day at all Rutgers locations beginning at 10 a.m. on the same day.