The Montana Folk Festival is expected to receive $600,000 from the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation and Montana Resources, some of which will go toward an educational component to the festival.
The money doubles the amount of grant money MR and the Foundation have given the Folk Festival in past years. Festival Director George Everett said the grant will enable the Folk Festival to provide music workshops for kids starting in the fall 2018 school year.
The money is a matching grant. The Montana Folk Festival will receive $100,000 from the Foundation and MR each year from 2018 to 2020. If that $100,000 is matched by other businesses, then the Foundation and MR will give an additional $100,000 for that year.
Everett said the matching grant program helps encourage other businesses to step up to support the festival. Everett said most of the festival's budget comes from corporate sponsorships and money earned on site.
With this financial boost, the festival can hire artists to go into the schools, starting in fall 2018, to give teach students more about the type of music they can see at the festival.
Everett said a survey of Butte school children taken a few years ago revealed that a favorite type of music among Butte students is zydeco, which originated in Louisiana.
“We’re pretty sure that didn’t come from YouTube,” Everett said. “It’s because they saw it at the Folk Festival.”
Mike Halligan, executive director of the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, said the foundation wants to showcase the "importance of the arts."
“We want to see this event continue for the long term and that is why we are doubling our support for this signature event. We also want to continue to support Butte and surrounding communities in an effort to help broaden the impact and reach of the festival into Montana’s K-12 and post-secondary education systems in order to showcase the arts not only as an economic driver but also as an academic motivator that boosts achievement in our schools," Halligan said through a news release.
The upcoming festival will run from July 13-15. Last year’s festival brought more than 20 groups to perform on six outdoor stages in Uptown Butte. The music can run the gamut of folk — from Syrian artists to traditional, Appalachian-style fiddlers.
The money will also go toward hiring more people in management for the festival, Everett said. This year’s festival will also be home to six stages and will continue to be a free event.
“People should come expecting to be amazed,” Everett said.