Keeping Life Alive: The Fresno Folklore Society

May 6, 2023 | 2023 Articles, Music, Tom Sims

by Tom Sims

Louis Armstrong said, “All music is folk music. I never heard a horse sing a song.” I am pretty sure that the first time I heard folk music, I smiled. I am also pretty sure that the first time I heard a sad folk song, it brought tears to my eyes.

I am fairly certain as I look back on the years, and as I examine my memory, folk music has been the mouthpiece through which I have been able to express my deepest emotions. I have been able to find a place of common ground with other humans around the common experience of our humanity. That is my personal reflection on folk music. And that is why, when given the opportunity to join the Fresno Folk Society, I decided to do so.

Recently I had a conversation with the President of the Society. Ron Bohigian shared with me that each year The Fresno Folklore Society brings artists to our community or identifies local artists who perform the best in American folk music. They invite these artists to do concerts in a variety of local venues from churches, community halls, and outdoor spaces to theaters. These concerts are held periodically throughout the year and continue to evoke smiles and tears. Joy and laughter flow because they express this common thread that each of us experiences in the journey of life.

Who performs and listens to folk music? What are the faces of those who cherish this art form? It is a variety. For instance, Ron Bohigian is a retired Fresno Unified School District principal, a lifetime resident of Fresno County, and a fiddler, who took up his bow about eleven years ago.

The Fresno Folklore Society was incorporated in 1980, but its origins go back to the 1960 when the Fresno Folk Club would host and promote events around the Valley. Still today, the Society acts to host, promote, educate, preserve, and encourage this art. It brings together artists from many folk genres and provides information on the broader “folk scene including their events and those sponsored by others who share a common purpose.”

They say:

“One of our organization’s objectives is to keep you up-to-date and encourage your joining with this community, a community that is dedicated to promoting the arts in our daily lives.”

“We are established as both a state and federal non-profit organization. We were founded for the purpose of preserving folk arts, especially traditional music, in the San Joaquin Valley.”

Daniel Thompson, mandolin, and Lucy Crary, mandolin & fiddle

They embrace music that can be described as “country, old-timey, bluegrass, honky tonk, Irish, Scottish, Cajun, Armenian — just to name a few.” They are a family friendly organization; welcoming children are welcome at most events. “We share with the community our talents and concerns for a peaceful, just, environmentally friendly world.”

Membership is open to the community: $20 a year for individual membership; $30 for a family. Benefits of membership include:

1. Being part of a folk community. There is a sense of being part of something that benefits the larger community.

2. Monthly newsletter and calendar of upcoming events. The monthly newsletter of the organization is more than just promotional. It covers a broad array of information about the Valley folk scene. It is educational as well as informative. Folk aficionados are often well-read and have interests that are wide and deep. Therefore, the newsletter is written with the inquisitive, insightful reader in mind.

3. Opportunity to sing, dance, and play music with others. This is a benefit that draws professional and amateur performers into the fold.

A recent concert

4. Opportunity to learn to sing, dance, and play music.

5. A discount at the door on most concert tickets. Some exceptions.

As an all-volunteer organization, they receive donations and also welcome volunteers. As a community benefit, nonprofit organization, they are governed by a board of directors.

Some of their regular, participating, local artists include:

Terry Barnes
Acoustic Folk-Rock & Americana.
Evo Bluestein
Multi-talented musician, popular dance caller, and gifted educator.
Jemmy Bluestein
Well-known teacher and performer on many instruments
Lance Canales
Roots and Blues.
Glen Delpit
Blues and Americana.
Dos ValleyTrio
Traditional American fiddle tunes from the Central Valley.
The Gilly Girls
Bluegrass, southern gospel and oldtime string band music.
Kenny Hall
Master Mandolin Player
Pan-celtic instrumental band.
Steve Ono
Singer/Songwriter Guitarist/Producer.
Pipe on the Hob
Celtic music with an emphasis on Irish and Scottish fiddle tunes, sweet ballads and robust pub songs.
Celtic music for your wedding or other special occasions.
Eva Scow
Eclectic mandolin and jazz violin.
Barry Shultz
American old-time fiddle.
Jerry Thurston
Roots Americana (blues, soul, rock, country, etc.)
Two for the Road
Celtic and American roots music, from Irish fiddle tune medleys to Western swing and bluegrass songs.

The latest edition of the newsletter can be read at

The next two monthly events, sponsored by the society are:

Fresno World Fiddle Day
Saturday, May 13, 2023 at 12 p.m. – 4 p.m.
The Big Red Church of Fresno
2131 N Van Ness Blvd Fresno
All local fiddlers
CDs and refreshments available
$5 donation requested at the door

A concert featuring Daniel Thompson (mandolin) and Lucy Crary (mandolin & fiddle)
Saturday, June 3, 2023 AT 10 a.m.
St James Episcopal Cathedral
4147 E Dakota Ave Fresno
Daniel and Lucy are locally trained young musicians. They are the concert organizers and Fresno Folklore is happy to provide this information as a service for our members. The program will feature classical, old-time, and contemporary selections.

The concert is free. Donations will be accepted with all proceeds going towards funding Daniel and Lucy’s endeavor to volunteer at a Joni and Friends retreat in June. (Joni and Friends is a Christian ministry that reaches out with hope to families living with disability. Retreats offer families an opportunity for relief and healing.)

Other events in the community include:

May 4-7, Kings River Jam camp @ Kirch Flat Campground

Saturday, May 13, World Fiddle Day

May 16-21, California Autoharp Gathering

June 21, 2023, International Make Music Day (summer solstice–new event locally, being spearheaded by John Hord)

Saturday, August 26, 2023 Play Music On The Porch Day

Without folk music, the world would be a poorer place. Thanks to the Fresno Folklore Society for keeping it vibrant and alive in our community.

“Folk music has pretty powerful medicine for changing your heart.” —Noel Paul Stookey

“It’s a folk singer’s job to comfort disturbed people and to disturb comfortable people.” —Woody Guthrie

The Fresno Folklore Society
PO Box 4617
Fresno, CA 93744

Email: FresnoFolkloreSociety@gmail[dot]com

FB Group

Friends of the Fresno Folklore Society Group

YouTube (A bit out of date, but good videos)

Tom Sims is a local pastor (and Grandpa!), writer, and blogger. Pastor Tom Sims spends time pastoring Granny’s Park Community church, leading 4141 Ministries with his wife, Andrea Sims, writing, teaching, and hosting various websites, blogs The Dream Factory where Ideas can be given room to grow, and Facebook pages such as The Politics of Compassion. You can also find him on Facebook.



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