Project History

(The photo above illustrates the functional space and vibrant activity use at Folklore Village that originally inspired this project) 1998 – The original concept for a local folklife center was hatched by Byron Wiley in 1998.   By that time, Byron had experienced several amazing events at Folklore Village in southwestern Wisconsin.  The idea to form a folklife center in Lawrence started developing during a long drive home from a Folklore Village event.    He wondered why a functional facility could not exist in Lawrence to support extraordinary programming found in places like Folklore Village.   Experiences at Folklore Village, visiting with Doug Dubois & Bayliss Harsh about the local Harmony Farms concept, local folklife events & activities,  and experiences at many other folk venues over the years have helped form and solidify the basic concepts.   Byron thought that it would be feasible for Lawrence to have a folklife center to collaborate with other existing groups to help meet the needs of the folk community.   The name conceived for this project in the early years was the Kansas Folklife Center.

1999 – The first draft outlining the thoughts about a facility and organization is completed.

2000, March 23 – The second draft is completed, refining an outline of the “Kansas Folklife Center” concept.

2001, August – The third draft is completed, outlining the folklife center concept. 2002, November – A fourth draft of the folklife center concept is completed.

2009, February – The Folklife Center concept makes its first website appearance.

2013, January –    A group of individuals representing local dance and music interests and led by Byron Wiley and Kathy Nace, approached the LPA (Lawrence Preservation Alliance) to evaluate whether the Turnhalle (a beautiful old stone German community building at 9th and Rhode Island)  might provide the physical home to diverse folk-related activities envisioned as early as 1998.  The name Lawrence Folk was adopted during this time of this project development.  Two photos of Turnhalle are included below. _MG_4366 _MG_4296 2013,  May –   The Turnhalle building project was determined to not be feasible for our group (not a large enough dance space for large events and a daunting fundraising project for the restoration of the historical building).   The old Community Theater Building (photo below) was researched as a possible venue.  There are many practical aspects of that space that would meet the needs requirements of a functional facility.  The web domain,, was purchased. _MG_4476 2013, September –  A team led by Lauralyn Bodle filed an application with the Country Song and Dance Society (CDSS) requesting that they make Lawrence a stop on the CDSS Centennial Tour.  The selection of our community as one of six stops across North America served as a major stepping stone in making the community aware of the folklife center project.  The CDSS Tour Stop is described by CDSS in the following way: ” CDSS believes that participatory arts change lives, and the CDSS mission is to spread joy and build community through dance, music..     … our Centennial Tour — a major project CDSS is planning for our Centennial in 2015, when we will celebrate 100 years of dance, music, and song, and the CDSS role in it. A major goal of all Centennial projects is to share and affirm the CDSS commitment that we will be around to support and serve you – dancers, singers, musicians, dance callers, song leaders, and organizers — for another 100 years.”

2014, March – The folklife project continues to simmer along but with renewed interest and focus that has been inspired by the large collaborative folklife community activity, the CDSS Centennial Tour (described above), occurring in November, 2015.  Additional excitement comes from the City of Lawrence’s Cultural Task Force project.

2015, May 26 – The new website is launched!

2015, August 8 – Work is underway to analyze the feasibility of a facility that is for sale.

2015, November 17-22 – The CDSS Centennial Tour Stop, aka Heartland Traditional Music and Dance Festival, exceeded expectations.   The folk music introductory programs in the elementary schools started a couple of weeks before the CDSS staff arrived on the 17th using local talent (musicians Greg Allen and Kelly Werts and callers Jill Allen and Jerome Grisanti).  Festival staff included the following:  Callers – Kalia Kliban, Sue Hulsether and Joseph Pimentel.    Staff musicians included: Karen Axelrod, Shira Kammen, Anna Patton and Andrew VanNorstrand.   Our weekend sound technician was Tony Hernandez.   Our CDSS leadership consultant was Linda Henry.     The organizing committee for this event included Lauralyn Bodle, Jill Allen, Byron Wiley, Susan Rieger, Dena Friesen, John Webb, Cecilia McDonald, Mary Orem and Becki DeRusseau.   Greg Allen produced our marketing video.   Many thanks to the volunteers, support staff, musicians and our participants for making this weekend so successful.    The festival schedule page is archived here for nowThe festival tour staff page is archived here for now.   Photos from the event can be found in this gallery.