Landmarks: The longevity, prestige of U of C's Folk Festival results in its own folklore

Jan. 15—As the story goes, a young Bob Dylan stopped by, unbidden, to participate in an open mic jam session, performing a set of Woody Guthrie songs as the first University of

Chicago Folk Festival got underway in 1961. "This was before he was Bob Dylan," Nick Rommel, a U of C student who is co-president of the university's Folklore Society, said

of the musician, whose real name is Robert Zimmerman. "A couple of years later when he got big, he asked if he could play the festival and we said no." By then, Dylan had

become a singer/songwriter, more pop artist than folk musician, and the acts the Folklore Society wanted hewed in another direction. It's the type of conversation that's still

happening at the society decades later. "There's a strong traditionalist strain in the Folklore Society, and we have extensive debates about what counts and what doesn't,"

said fellow student and society co-president Jack Cramer. As they planned for the 63rd Annual UChicago Folk Fest, taking place Feb. 10 and 11 at the university's Mandel

Hall, 1131 E. 57th St., the old school crowd held sway once again. The schedule includes folk music from a range of traditions: classic bluegrass, Mexican son huasteco, Bulgarian

gudulka, Louisiana Cajun, traditional Irish music and some old-time fiddle music. Being a Chicago festival, a blues act is always on the bill as well. Details are at A registered student organization, the Folklore Society is unique, in that a "significant portion" of its membership is made up of university

alumni, and even some enthusiastic community members from the Hyde Park area, Cramer said.