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Folkin' Fun

Singer Bradley Ditto of Hollywood grabs a grocery bag, toilet paper, or whatever else is handy when he comes up with an idea for fresh lyrics. A performer since fifth grade, Ditto became enamored of songwriting during high school. He'll bring his guitar and repertoire of tunes, which range in subject from social commentary to such whimsical topics as his mom's chicken and rice, to Easterlin Park as one of dozens of performers in the 11th Annual South Florida Folk Festival.

When choosing performers for the outdoors event, the organizers from the Broward Folk Club sought to include a variety of musical styles and themes, says sponsorship coordinator Liz Nagys.

Contrary to some stereotypes, folk music isn't limited to songs from the 1960s crooned by former hippies. The genre includes a broader range, from traditional to cutting-edge contemporary, with the common denominator being acoustic music.

"It's MTV Unplugged," Nagys says. "The content of the folk music is really what's on the hearts of people." Nagys notes that country, blues, salsa, rock, and jazz influence the performers.

The 100 or so acts include Billy Glades from Central Florida, who sings in folk-rock style about the environment; the Bear from Oakland Park, who leads a drum circle of folks pounding out percussive rhythms; and pilot Rick Gasque of Plantation, who'll gladly improvise his lyrics or stop midsong to banter and chat with the crowd. The headlining acts include eclectic folk duo Small Potatoes on Saturday and beleaguered Seminole Chief James Billie on Sunday.

The festival also features workshops, contra-style line-dancing, children's entertainers, and performances by the top 20 of 240 singer-songwriter contestants from around the country and beyond, vying for cash prizes and the opportunity to return to future festivals.

Being the folksy festival it is, listeners can sit back and enjoy the music or join in the action. There are workshops for learning, dance callers for fancy stepping, and maracas for shaking. And if Ditto decides to do his "Chicken Song," feel free to cluck along with the chorus.

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Patti Roth

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