RiverRoots Folk Arts Village
sheds light on history, culture
Ohio’s Dubbeld travels the country enlightening guests
(June 2018) – It is possible to take a step back in time at the RiverRoots Music and Folk Arts Festival, set for June 8-9 in Madison, Ind. Just a short walk from the main stage, visitors will be able to watch a gathering of craftsmen demonstrating the traditional, hands-on skills of days gone by.
“Our idea is to show people the dying craft skills that are often being replaced by machines,” said Folk Art Village Coordinator Walt Dubbeld. “It is a big loss for society to lose these historic skills. Hopefully, our demonstrations will spark an interest in some of the people at RiverRoots, and they will take up some of these hand crafts and continue the tradition of their ancestors.”
Dubbeld first took an interest in historical re-enactment work in 1976 at the bicentennial wagon train Valley Forge. He started the Folk-Art Village at RiverRoots in 2009.
When he first started going to events, he and his wife, Jan, participated in 10-12 shows annually. His work at RiverRoots takes so much time that he has cut his annual trips back to six a year.
Photo by John Sheckler
Walt Dubbeld coordinates the Folk Art Village for the RiverRoots Festival. He dresses in Victorian era clothing.
“My first event was at Genesee Village, a living history village in New York,” Said Dubbeld.
Looking at old paintings, they discovered how it was done because the obscura lens is curved and so is the image. The camera obscura tent will be in the Folk Art Village, located between the main stage and the river stage.
“We met people living in a teepee, got interested and one thing led to another. I have always been capable with my hands because I grew up in jeweler trade, so I started making hand crafted items with old tools.”
As the couple got more interested in the history of the demonstrators, they found ways to cover their costs.
“Jan could sew, so she made the clothing,” said Dubbeld. “I did Native American bead wear and sold that to support our habit.”
Dubbeld soon set a personal goal.
“My whole purpose is to interest and educate people into learning a craft,” he said. “And maybe they will learn to do one of these crafts themselves. So many of these crafts are dying out as the old craftsmen are gone, the skill is gone.”
The event timeline at Genesee covers from the early 1700s farm life up until the mid-1800s. Part of the village is a town with merchants from around 1840.
Genesee Village is a permanent organization with several Victorian homes including an octagon house.
The RiverRoots Folk Village has no permanent structures, but Dubbeld strives to create the same village effect where people can interact with the demonstrators. The people in the village and at RiverRoots both dress in pre-1800s costumes. At RiverRoots, they stay in canvas tents.
The number of demonstrators in the Folk Craft Village has stabilized at 10. One of the demonstrators is fiddle maker Michael Thompson, who makes and plays an 18-inch-long pocket fiddle that is very narrow and easier to pack than a full size instrument.
“It is very important for demonstrators to interact with the people,” said Dubbeld. “Michael is great with the public.”
Other period demonstrators include someone making flax fibers from raw flax plants.
“We have someone doing quilling – that is the art of making little flowers out of old paper, a blacksmith, and a gal who uses rye straw for hat making and hand braded items.”
The demonstrator list also includes a weaver and two spinners, paint decorated boxes and wood carved bowls.
“Gunsmith Mike McHugh moved here from Ohio recently,” said Dubbeld. “I met him recently at Musee de Venoge in Vevay (Ind.). Venoge is a French colonial style homestead.”
One demonstration that is a big hit with the festival crowd is the camera obscura. It is a glass lens that captures a landscape and projects it on paper so it can be traced. It was used by landscape artists for centuries before there was photography.
“Fine arts painters first drew in the background and drew in portraits,” Dubbeld added.
Back to June 2018 Articles.