Well while it felt like only a matter of time, there was always part of me that was hoping somehow and someway Jay Sweet would make the impossible possible this year. Every year the Newport Folk Festival makes dreams come true and is by far the greatest weekend of the summer. Today though Newport Folk Festival has cancelled their 2020 weekend.

I have been going since 2016 and from the moment I stepped on the grounds there was just this electricity in the air. It’s hard to describe it but if you’ve been there you know it. Everyone on site is there for the music. All ten thousand of us, there for just one purpose. What Jay has been able to do has been amazing to follow and see in person. It takes a village though and the team he assembles is second to none. That goes from the artists on stage, to the security, to the vendors, to the volunteers, and everyone in between. The past two years even more change came with donations going to charities from every artist that plays on behalf of Newport’s Foundation. No other festival does this and it really makes this festival stand head and shoulders above all others.

Yet another thing that makes Newport different is seeing artists, of all sizes, move about the concert field taking it in. I’ve seen everyone from the openers of the day llliterate Light to Phil Lesh and Brandi Carlile walking about and seeing other artists play and exploring the fort. The concert goers leave the artists alone when seeing them off stage. It’s an unwritten rule that everyone at the festival follows. The vibe at the Fort is laid back and welcoming and it’s mission statement is to let everyone enjoy the festival on their own terms.

The surprises have really been taken to wild levels in the last half a decade. From the year before I went with My Morning Jacket supporting Roger Waters to Mumford and Sons surprising headline set to Dolly Parton and Kermit the Frog on consecutive days to the cavalcade of musicians playing songs with John Prine, there’s always tears of joy at Newport. It’s really going to hurt to not be at the fort this summer with smiling faces and the folk family. It truly is a place where you see the same faces and families every year while enjoying the best that music has to offer.

Of course in typical fashion Jay has stayed positive and sent out the following letter to the folk family. All I want to know is, is it 2021 yet because I can almost guarantee that every artist that can come back that was announced for this year will be back and the festival might stay sold out as I doubt many will give up their tickets for next year. Thank you as always Newport.


Dear Folk 

This is the letter I was praying I wouldn’t have to write, feeling we need the healing powers of live music more now than ever. It is with the heaviest of hearts we announce the cancellation of the 2020 Newport Folk Festival. As devastating as it is to write those words, it’s balanced with a renewed sense of, well, HOPE. It’s Rhode Island’s motto for good reason and it’s also the feeling you, our festival family, constantly exudes when we come together in good times and perhaps more importantly, in difficult times as well. This community is truly unlike any other in music, and I believe we can emerge from this hardship stronger and more connected than ever before. 

However, while your safety was at the core of the present decision, your support will be at the core of our future viability. Our ability to produce this festival in 2021 – and continue making a lasting difference in the lives of artists, students and music lovers like yourselves – is in your hands. Quite simply, we need your help. 

Due to the financial and institutional uncertainties we find ourselves in, we believe the most trusting and direct course of action is to let the ticket holders decide where their ticket dollars should go. We have sent all ticket holders an email mapping out three options: 1) donate all or a portion of your ticket that will go directly towards ensuring our festival for 2021 while continuing our support for artists and educators; 2) apply your refund towards a 2021 Revival Membership – a new and one-time offer we’ve created specifically to ensure our future and provide these members with 3-day tickets to the 2021 festival (remaining memberships will be offered to the general public directly after the request period); and 3) receive a 100% full refund if desired.  

For those of you who didn’t have tickets for this year, PLEASE consider making a tax-deductible donation. Help us continue these festivals, support year-round music education initiatives, and provide grants to artists in need.  

I want to personally thank our founder George Wein, our staff, our Board of Directors, the City of Newport, and the DEM for their continued efforts. And, offer a personal note of gratitude to Rhode Island Governor, Gina Raimondo, for her leadership and counsel in prioritizing our well being in making the decision to cancel the festival.  

Although we won’t be able to gather at the Fort this summer, rest assured we have invited ALL the announced artists to join us next year. In the meantime, we promise we will all commune one way or another on our festival weekend. As always, we have some secret surprises in store as well, so stay tuned for more details in the coming weeks. Until then, stay strong and folk on.  






Be Present. Be Kind. Be Open. Be Together.



Article: Bryan Lasky



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