Behind the scenes of the beautiful costumes, delicious food, and cultural music there is a team of individuals working to make Folkmoot thrive. Folkmoot has four regular staff that work on a year-round basis. We also have more than 45 seasonal and key volunteer positions, including guides who live with the international groups during the festival and festival leads who share their skills and expertise for the love of Folkmoot.
Folkmoot’s director is Angeline Schwab. Angie has a background in arts, culture & community and economic development. Since 2015, Angie has grown Folkmoot to a year-round cultural organization and believes that diversifying the festival, maximizing the use of the building, building strong partnerships and new cultural programming are the way to the future. Angie grew up in Buncombe County and went to college at UNC-Wilmington. Since that time, Angie went to graduate school at the University of Oregon where she earned a Masters in Public Affairs and then moved to Humboldt County, California, one of the most beautiful places on the planet to start her career. Angie, her husband Brandon, their two sons, Avery & Harper and three dogs moved to Waynesville in 2014 to be closer to family. Angie says, “Never before Folkmoot did I understand that folkdance was an opportunity for experiencing diversity and cultural understanding. What a gift to experience the world right here at home and to make so many people happy with a community festival.”
This is Laura Shepherd’s fourth year planning for and executing Folkmoot’s special events. As Folkmoot’s Event and Ticket Coordinator, Laura’s favorite part of her job is the interaction with ticket buyers and eventually meeting them at performances. Laura’s background is in catering, hotel and attraction sales which prepared her for the ever-changing needs of working for a non-profit. Laura has traveled the world and lived all over the United States. She has been volunteering and working in Haywood County for over 18 years and lives in Waynesville with her husband, Scott. Being the mother of two, Tessa and Shaw, and stepmom to three daughters, Shantel, Tina, and Monique has been her greatest joy. Laura is enthusiastic about food, gardening, and organizing, all of which makes her perfect for Folkmoot.
Folkmoot’s Programming and Group Relations Coordinator Elizabeth Burson is a lifelong Folkmoot enthusiast. As a Waynesville native, Folkmoot has inspired Elizabeth to foster friendships from all over the world and to travel to global destinations in the name of cultural adventure. With six years experience as a Folkmoot guide and now three years as Folkmoot’s programs coordinator, Elizabeth’s primary responsibilities are her favorite, managing the details of group selection, assisting with marketing and working with guides during the festival. Elizabeth is a UNC Greensboro graduate with a bachelors in Communication Studies and is currently working on acquiring a Nonprofit Management Certificate from Duke University. Elizabeth enjoys spending time with her family and friends, watching movies and cooking new recipes.
Catherine has served as the Operations & Volunteer Coordinator for Folkmoot for the past year and a half. Residing in Sylva with her college sweetheart, Brandon, the couple will celebrate five years of marriage this fall. Catherine is a graduate of Western Carolina University with a bachelor’s degree in Hospitality and Tourism and minor in Leadership. Catherine is currently pursuing her Master’s Degree in Project Management at WCU and will graduate this December. In her spare time, Catherine loves to kayak down the Tuckasegee River and travel with her husband. Folkmoot has played a big role in Catherine’s experience of diversity in our community which has, in turn, encouraged her to travel the world.
Lisa Wilnoty is the Cherokee Community Coordinator for Folkmoot, representing all cultural activities related to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Lisa is in her third year working with the Folkmoot organization, starting as a cultural performer in 2015. Lisa resides in the Wolfetown community with her husband Frederick Wilnoty II. After working with Cherokee cultural organizations for several years, Lisa is learning the Cherokee language and sharing Cherokee history and culture with the Folkmoot family. Lisa says, “We are working to build bridges between people of different cultures and it’s my honor to encourage understanding of Cherokee.” Lisa also serves as a board member of Maverick’s Tsalagi Sunshine.
Aaron Owenby has been working with Folkmoot since 2003 and continues to devote his time to us as he loves taking the opportunity to meet a wide range of different peoples from around the globe. Currently, he serves as the year-round maintenance guy and drives a bus for groups during the festival.
Heather Davidson has been around Folkmoot since she was a child. Her mother was a volunteer, and Heather spend many summers at Folkmoot with her. She volunteered every year until she was old enough to be a guide. She has since been a guide for Trinidad, Puerto Rico, Uganda, France, and Russia! Her favorite part about Folkmoot is the time in between all the events, shows, and meetings. She loves this time because it’s when she gets to know everyone and become like a family during their time together.
Yetunde Bashorun is a returning guide with Folkmoot and 2018 will be her second festival. She was the intern who helped to launch Cultural Conversations in 2017. Yetunde loves working with Folkmoot because she cares about the organization’s mission to celebrate diversity and inclusion throughout western North Carolina communities. Yetunde loves to be outdoors and is an avid hiker. Yetunde was born in Lagos Nigeria.
Ethan Cronk has worked with Folkmoot during the annual Folkmoot festival for two years now and is coming up on his third year. The last two festivals he worked as an assistant guide and is ready to jump in as a full guide this summer! He loves working with Folkmoot because it offers a family-like community, and he gets to interact with people from all over the world. Ethan will be graduating from Tuscola High School this summer and plans to attend NC State for International Business.
Avery is returning as an Assistant Guide for the 2018 Festival and attends Tuscola High School. He is a junior in high school with an array of talents. Avery plays the violin and baritone, works on computers, is a stilt walker, and has studied jujitsu for eight years. 2018 is Avery’s fourth festival. He thought Western North Carolina felt like a new American sub-culture compared to his birthplace in California and was grateful have Folkmoot as an opportunity to have access to international cultures.
Harper is a student at Tuscola High School who is excited to be returning to Folkmoot as an Assistant Guide. Last year he helped out in a variety of ways for including holding the role as lead on souvenirs and being an assistant guide. 2018 is Harper’s fourth festival. Harper is a stilt walker and plays the clarinet, piano, and various percussion instruments. Harper was also the president of the eighth-grade woodwinds and will be Drum Major for the Tuscola High School Marching Band this year.
Kaitlyn is a student at Tuscola High School where she participates in the Tuscola SWAT Team and is Librarian of Tuscola Band. “I am excited to be working as an Assistant Guide at Folkmoot because it is a great opportunity to experience different cultures and spread diversity throughout the community.”
Grace is a sophomore at Tuscola High School and has experienced many cultures through travels with her family. Grace has a passion for egalitarianism (the doctrine that all people are equal) and shares this value with the Folkmoot organization. Grace lived in Singapore for two years and she embraced and enjoyed the cultural differences. Grace has helped run a nursery and served on the school’s volunteer outreach program.
Gracie is a high-school student who enjoys playing the piano and studying foreign languages. She is currently learning Spanish and French. Gracie has been an Assistant Guide for Peru, India and Dominican Republic. After her first festival, Gracie took a trip with her grandmother to Peru to visit the friends she had made at Folkmoot.
Izzy is a returning Assistant Guide for Folkmoot. “During my time at Folkmoot during the last festival, I was able to experience some truly incredible escapades and would love to encounter more amazing events.” She was raised to respect people of all different races and religions.
Alma is a student at Tuscola High School, she enjoys playing her flute in the School’s symphonic band and marching piccolo in the Tuscola High School Marching Band. This will be Alma’s first year working with Folkmoot as an assistant guide and she is most excited about working with people from new and different cultures. She looks forward to meeting new friends and gaining new experiences you can only get from being involved in Folkmoot.
Jena is a student at Tuscola High school she is optimistic, enthusiastic and extremely excited to work with Folkmoot this year. Her favorite thing about Folkmoot is “being able to interact with different cultures other than her own.” She loves meeting new people that she can learn from and Folkmoot makes her want to keep learning about the world and everyone in it.
Andrea is a student at Tuscola High School where she participates in the Tuscola High School Marching Band, Winter Guard And she is HOSA Vice President. She enjoys playing her clarinet in the schools symphonic band and marching color guard in the schools marching band. Her favorite thing about Folkmoot is being able to interact with different people from around the world that she normally would not be able to meet without this organization.
Afton is a high school student at Tuscola, she enjoys playing her clarinet in the schools symphonic band and marching color guard in the schools Marching Band, she also enjoys participating in the schools Winter Guard. She enjoys traveling and seeing new places in the world. Her favorite thing about Folkmoot is seeing the diversity and different cultures all working together as well as making lifelong memories with amazing people.
Connor is an undergraduate student at NC State. He enjoys studying languages and world politics. Over the past year, Connor lived in the Global Village at NC State with international students from over 20 different nations, so coming aboard as a guide will be a natural return to the type of international community he has grown accustomed to.
Garrett is a high school student at Tuscola, he plays the trumpet in many ensembles both on and off campus such as the Schools Marching Band and also plays in the school’s jazz band. Garrett is easy-going and will always bring a smile to your face. His favorite thing about Folkmoot is the music of the many cultures presented by the different groups.
Samual Eason Esquivel is 18 years old and a recent graduate of Cherokee High School, GO BRAVES! He loves acting and singing and will be going to school in NYC at AMDA in October for musical theater. He loves traveling and meeting new people. If he had a million dollars he would probably spend half of it on food. This is Easons first year as a guide but has worked with Folkmoot before as a Cherokee performer and ambassador.
Mayo Ferguson is one of Folkmoot’s longest standing volunteers. He first began working with us in 1986, took a small break somewhere along the way to get a family going, came back and picked up where he left off. Of all the things he enjoys about working with Folkmoot he most enjoys the interactions and conversations he can have with people from around the world. The music, dance, art, and performances are enjoyable but it is what he can learn from someone with a different perspective that he values the most.
Vivian Poppas is another one of Folkmoot’s longest standing volunteers. She has been actively working with us for over 29 years and her duties and positions have included a little bit of everything but her favorite position so far has been working as a Guide during the festival. She also thoroughly enjoys the opportunity to make friends with people from all corners of the globe and to learn about their different cultures.
Natalie Ballard is studying Business Administration and Law at Western Carolina University with a minor in Political Science. She was captain of the color guard in high school and assistant choir director for the children’s choir at the church she attends. Natalie loves learning about different cultures and getting to experience new ideas. She hopes to one day live in another country.
She has volunteered countless hours cooking for friendship dinners, creating the menu for the upcoming festival and providing upkeep to the kitchen. Since her first connection with Folkmoot, Michelle fell in love with the mission of the organization. She calls it an opportunity of a lifetime.
Folkmoot means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. To David Bortle, Folkmoot is a non-profit that establishes a platform for community building. He appreciates how the Folkmoot festival encourages diverse groups to put their differences aside for the universal love of dance and music. “(Folkmoot is) different people coming together to transcend the American existence,” he said. In the two years of working at Folkmoot, David undoubtedly enjoyed most working with last year’s Israeli performance group. He describes the Israeli group as incredible, hard-working, and cultured.