Published September 25, 2019

Virginia Humanities joins the Richmond Folk Festival in announcing the Virginia Folklife Area theme for the 2019 Richmond Folk Festival: “Hot Rods and Hot Licks.”

  • When: The 15th annual Richmond Folk Festival takes place Friday, October 11, beginning at 6:00 PM, through Sunday, October 13 at 6:00 PM. The Virginia Folklife Area will be open Saturday, October 12 and Sunday, October 13, from 12:00 PM until 6:00PM each day.
  • Where: Richmond Folk Festival, Brown’s Island, Richmond, Virginia
  • Cost: FREE, No tickets required for entrance

The Virginia Folklife Program’s 2019 presentation of Hot Rods and Hot Licks will celebrate and showcase some of the Commonwealth’s most skilled and innovative automotive magicians. Audiences will witness the intricate art of pinstriping, custom form sculpting, bead rolling and stretching, and much more, while getting up close and personal with the prized rolling wonders of local hot rodders and collectors. Audiences will also be able to observe the complete disassembly and reassembly of a small block Chevy engine by Roanoke County School’s Team Vibrant Performance, who won the 2018 Hot Rodders of Tomorrow Engine Challenge by completing the task in just sixteen minutes and forty-seven seconds.

Jon Lohman, director of Virginia Humanities’ Virginia Folklife Program, explained that the automotive arts have left a rich cultural imprint on Virginia’s culture and landscape. “Prior to the 1960s, nearly every car in America was a product of Chrysler, Ford, or General Motors,” Lohman said. “It wasn’t long before they were being tricked out in small garages, barns, and backyards across Virginia’s landscape. Skilled ‘motorheads’—artisans of the automotive arts—combined traditional mechanical skills learned through family and community connections with new technological innovations and individual self-expression, transforming Detroit’s factory models into hot rods, dragsters, street rods, muscle cars, low riders, art cars, and anything else the imagination could dream up on four wheels”.

Lohman, the state folklorist, has curated and produced the Virginia Folklife Area and Stage at the Richmond Folk Festival since the festival’s inception in 2005 as the National Folk Festival. While the Festival’s other six stages feature performers from around the world, the Virginia Folklife Area and Stage focus on Virginia’s finest tradition-bearers centered on a unifying theme.

Complementing the hot rod theme, the Virginia Folklife Stage will showcase Virginia’s “hot licks” with a diverse range of musical artists that draw from some of the state’s most beloved traditional genres—blues, bluegrass, gospel, and honky-tonk—in a manner that honors tradition yet leaves the indelible stamp of their own imagination and handicraft.

In October, the 2019 Virginia Folklife Area welcomes the following performers and material culture demonstrators:

Custom Automobile Demonstrations

  • Jack Harris (Custom Metal Work)
  • Kent Writtenberry (Autobody Metal Work and Custom Restoration)
  • Tom Van Nortwick (Automobile Pinstriping)
  • Marty Martino (Custom Auto Design and Shaping)
  • Roddy Moore (Curator of Virginia Folklife Area)
  • Team Vibrant Performance: Burton Center for Arts and Technology Motor Sports Team, Chris Overfelt, Coach (Engine Assembly and Disassembly)


  • Bryan Bowers Band (autoharp virtuoso/folk)
  • Danny Knicely (multi-instrumentalist and dancer)
  • Deborah Pratt and Clementine Macon Boyd (oyster shucking champions)
  • Dr. Levine and the Dreaded Blues Lady with Andrew Alli (blues)
  • Frank Newsome (Old Regular Baptist hymns)
  • J Pope (vocalist and lyricist)
  • Legendary Ingramettes (gospel)
  • Linda Lay and Springfield Exit (bluegrass)
  • Mandkhai Erdembat (Mongolian contortion)
  • Urban Artistry (house dance and hip hop)
  • Whitetop Mountain Band (old time)
  • Wild Ponies (Americana)
  • Willard Gayheart featuring Dori Freeman (Appalachian singer/songwriter)

The Virginia Folklife Area and Stage is sponsored by the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The Richmond Folk Festival producing partners include Venture Richmond Events LLC, the City of Richmond, the National Council for the Traditional Arts (NCTA), the Children’s Museum of Richmond, and the Virginia Folklife Program at Virginia Humanities. To learn more about the Richmond Folk Festival visit RichmondFolkFestival.org.

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