Ann Arbor Folk Festival canceled as COVID numbers rise

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

The 45th annual Folk Festival, one of the state's largest folk concerts, has been canceled because of rising COVID numbers.

The Folk Festival, the primary fundraiser for The Ark, a nationally renowned Ann Arbor concert venue, was scheduled to return to an in-person format Jan. 28-29 at Hill Auditorium with big names such as Emmylou Harris and Patty Griffin as the headliners. It was held virtually last year. 

"Although the Folk Festival is The Ark's largest annual fundraising event and canceling means losing a vital source of our annual operating revenue, our primary concern at this time is for the health and safety of patrons, artists, crew, staff, and the broader community," said The Ark in a statement released Friday.

Emmylou Harris arrives at the 60th annual Grammy Awards.

Ticketholders will receive an email from The Ark or from the Michigan Union Ticket Office with information on how to obtain refunds.

The Ark was founded in 1965. It's drawn acclaimed musicians such as John Prine, Loudon Wainwright, Martin Sexton, Ani DiFranco and others. 

Folk Festival organizers say several issues factored into their decision to cancel this year's festival. Aside from the latest surge in COVID cases and hospitalizations because of the highly contagious Omicron variant, at least one of this year's headliners had already canceled.

"And we anticipate additional artist cancellations for the festival based on current trends at The Ark and other venues, as well as events and conferences regionally and nationally," said organizers on The Ark's website.

This year's Folk Festival was to feature six acts Jan. 28 and six other acts Jan. 29. Irish songwriter Glen Hansard, who won a Best Original Song Oscar in 2008 for "Falling Slowly," was the headliner Jan. 28. Singer songwriter Sara Watkins was to be the MC.

"We’re hopeful that we’ll be able to bring many of this year’s artists back for individual shows soon and that many will be able to join us for next year’s festival," said The Ark.