50th year of Festival in the Park kicks off in Roanoke

ROANOKE, Va. – This weekend marks the start of Festival in the Park, a three-day music festival that’s expected to draw thousands of people to the Star City. 

It’s been 50 years since the festival started, and to honor the major anniversary, some big names in both country music and old-school hits will be performing this weekend.

Organizers with the festival say it originally started back in 1968, not so much as an organized festival but with sidewalk musicians playing their songs throughout the city. 1969 marked the first year the event brought people to Elmwood Park, and since then it’s continued every year.

Chief organizer Skip Brown says this is the second oldest music festival in the United States, second only to the Philadelphia Folk Festival. To honor all of those years of music, this year‘s festival is taking a look back at its beginnings.

“We wanted to find music that was in the radio space back in the late 1960s and early '70s,” says Brown. “So of course we got 1964 The Tribute, The Beatles cover, they were all over the charts at the time. We’re bringing in Foghat and Foghat is a classic rock band.”

Foghat is an English rock band best known for songs like “Slow Ride” and “Driving Wheel.”

Before Foghat takes the stage Saturday and 1964 The Tribute plays on Sunday, country music stars Russell Dickerson and Drake White will play on Friday. 

While the majority of the performances will take place in Elmwood Park, music and arts will also spill out onto Franklin Road and Jefferson Street this weekend.

The weekend-long event has been bringing visitors from not only the Roanoke Valley, but throughout the state and the entire East Coast for decades.

“We bring about $1 million worth of economic benefit into the valley,” says Brown. “When you consider that people don’t just come to the festival, they’re walking all over downtown, the restaurants, shops, everybody is benefiting. We fill up hotel all by ourselves here alone, there’s a tremendous economic impact.”

While ticket prices for many festivals continue to rise, a three-day pass for Festival in the Park has dropped to just $10 this year. If you wait and purchase your ticket at the gate, it’s $5 per day. 

For more details and to buy tickets, click here.