Nashville hosts National Folk Festival Sept. 2-4

This city has no theme park, no beach and no casinos.

But it has music. Lots of it.

The National Folk Festival, which is coming to Nashville Labor Day weekend, caps off several months of major events held here that validate Nashville's self-proclaimed moniker "Music City USA."

The free-to-attend folk festival, held Sept. 2-4, is to feature more than 250 of the country's finest traditional performers and craftsmen, with simultaneous performances on six stages throughout the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park. An estimated 60,000 to 80,000 attendees are expected.

Audiences will be treated to authentic blues, gospel, jazz, cowboy, bluegrass, klezmer, Cajun, rhythm and blues, mariachi, Western swing, zydeco and more. Even polka. Yes, in Nashville, the city famed for fiddles and fringe.

Performances will celebrate the cultures of Native American, Celtic, Acadian, Middle Eastern, Caribbean, East Asian, Appalachian, Hispanic, Eastern European, African and Pacific Island.

Organizers also promise "a delicious variety of ethnic and regional food specialties."

If Southern food is more appealing, Nashville has plenty of fried chicken, country ham, pork barbecue, collard greens, red-eye gravy, grits and fried green tomatoes. Wash it down with sweet tea.

Gov. Bill Haslam, in announcing the folk festival, said it "preserves and celebrates the roots and variety of American culture we have here in our state."

The festival will take place a few blocks away from the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum (a city shrine) and a dozen or so raucous honky-tonks where hot guitars compete with cold beer for popularity.

If visitors want a taste of modern American culture, there's a Hard Rock Cafe on the downtown waterfront. And a Hooters.

The festival, now in its 73rd year, has been produced since 1934 by the National Council for the Traditional Arts. With such a long run, the festival has transcended country music, big band, rock 'n' roll, disco and rap.

A sampling of scheduled acts this year: La Excelencia, doing salsa; Samba Mapangala & Orchestre Virunga, doing East African rumba and soukous; the Massive Monkeys, doing breakdance; Lloyd Arneach, a Cherokee storyteller.

Nashville, which already has 11 million tourists a year, beat out more than 40 other cities to host the event for the next three years. The festival is projected to pump $10 million into the local economy each year.