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Ex-Cityfolk Fest volunteer organizes free concert

But first is a fundraiser this month.

The right music in the right situation can change your life forever. For Dayton transplant Sunni Russo that was the National Folk Festival in downtown Dayton between 1996-98. She became heavily involved as a volunteer with the annual event and continued on in larger volunteer roles after it became the Cityfolk Festival in 1999.

Earlier this year, Russo decided to organize an event to celebrate the cultural impact of the festival, which ended its run last summer. The result of her efforts is the Cityfolk Festival Reunion to be held at Courthouse Square in Dayton on June 22.

“We all knew when we organized last year’s festival it was kind of a last-ditch effort for them,” she said. “Cityfolk tried to make it work, but ultimately it wasn’t enough to keep them afloat. It was just devastating for all of us, but we’re trying not to dwell on the negative.”

World music smorgasbord

Russo, a native of northern New Jersey, relocated to Dayton in the mid-’90s. She was immediately captivated by the festival’s approach, which provided Daytonians with a true musical smorgasbord of the different styles of music created throughout the world.

“I’m a big lover of music, and the festival really exposed me to so many different kinds of music,” Russo said. “Some I didn’t know existed and others I had not heard in a live setting. I had never heard of Celtic music before that and I love it now. The ability to have all of that culture in one place was great and it was a positive experience for everybody involved, whether they were volunteers or there to enjoy the festival. Everybody loved that about the festival.”

The June 22 event will give local fans of the Cityfolk Festival and former volunteers alike an opportunity to gather at Courthouse Square, the festival’s original spot, and celebrate the legacy of the beloved festival. Danny Voris, Paige Beller, Son del Caribe, The Corndrinkers and the Stivers Jazz Band will all perform that day.

Reunion fundraiser

To help defray some of the costs of the first-time concert, Russo has organized a fundraiser at BD’s Mongolian Grill at The Greene in Beavercreek from 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 21. Tickets are $25 adults and $7 children age 2-10.

“For that one price you get soup, salad, a stir fry bowl, a non-alcoholic drink and tax,” Russo said. “We get a portion of the proceeds from each ticket. I ran something similar a couple of years ago when Cityfolk was still alive. For no output, other than printing some tickets, and we made like $700. I don’t expect to make that much this time, maybe we will, but that’s more than enough to pay for the few expenses we have.”

She credits the altruistic nature of the musicians and volunteers, who are all donating their time to make the Cityfolk Festival Reunion a fitting tribute to the former arts organization’s annual downtown street party.

“Somehow I managed, without really thinking about it, to put together this amazing little team,” Russo said. “I found the right people to help get a lot done for free. I’m organizing this as a one-time thing, but based on how it goes, and under the right circumstances, I could see it becoming a yearly event. It’s really too early to say, but I feel incredibly lucky.”

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