At the Folkmoot Friendship Center in Waynesville, performers’ costumes erupt from the sleeping quarters to fill spare rooms, hallways, and an unused nook in the auditorium.
“We always assume that the costumes and performers will fit in the same room,” said Karen Babcock, the festival’s executive director.
But this year, the Folkmoot staff and volunteers had to make last-minute adjustments to accommodate more costumes than usual.
“It’s thinking on your feet and coming up with solutions,” Babcock said, adding that throughout the festival every year, unexpected challenges always arise.
Babcock said that many of the groups this year are larger than the average sized groups in years past, which leaves less room for costumes in the sleeping quarters. Because many of the groups are from Europe, some of the costumes are thicker.
The Russian group alone came with more than 100 costumes. Each of the group’s 14 dances has a different set of costumes. Each dancer came with up to eight costumes because some of the parts are mixed and matched for the different dances.
The group brought 12 bags containing only costumes and eight more bags with their requisites, accessories and hats.
When the Apple Chill Cloggers arrived at the Folkmoot Center, their room — located across the hall from the Russians’ quarters — was covered in Russian costumes. The costumes hung on a two-tiered clothing rack with bags spread about its base. The red pants and ornate shirts hung on poles close to the windows.
The cloggers had one empty rack in the center of the room to hang their own garments. And the group still needed to open more beds so all their performers could sleep in the room. With some rearranging and relocation of costumes, the cloggers finally were able to open the beds.
Like the Russian group, the Polish performers also brought several costumes. The group has 37 members, and 26 are dancers. Most of the Polish dancers came with five costumes each, performer Magda Majewska said.
When the group arrived July 20, one of the first tasks was to hang up the costumes.
“It always takes a lot of time to put them in the right order,” Majewska said. “We always have to be careful about putting them on the floor or in water. [Putting them in water] would be a disaster.”
One of the guides for the Polish group, Megan McLeod, said she was surprised when she saw all the costumes. Last year, her group had only nine performers with two costumes apiece.
Because the Poles had so many costumes, McLeod had to help find extra racks and hangers around the Folkmoot Center.
“They all got them out and knew exactly what to do,” she said.
Many of the costumes arrived to the States wrinkled. Majewska estimated it would take the group a couple of hours to iron the 20 shirts and 10 aprons for their Thursday night performance.
Depending on the length of their performance, the dancers might bring two costumes with them to the venues and change when they get to the site, which makes for a very crowded bus.
The five costumes the dancers brought come from different classes and regions of Poland. Two come from Southern Poland.
One is from the peasant class. The women wear a flower print skirt, vest, shawl, wool socks, leather boots and white blouse. The other is based on what the 17th century gentry would wear. The dresses are black, red and green with gold embroidery and costume gold chains and decoration.
Another costume comes from the central region of Poland, from where the group is based in Pkock near the capital. These costumes have heavy wool jackets.
The costumes from the northeastern region of the country have unique black hats that lay flat in a wooden suitcase. But when the performers put them on, they curve around the crowns of their heads, tied with long ribbons in the back.
The group’s fifth set of costumes is from countries across Europe for a dance Majewska called European Fantasy.
The group from Portugal brought two costumes for each dancer and had some difficulty transporting all their costumes and instruments.
“We had to cut into our personal luggage to bring all the costumes with us,” group co-director Amabélio Pereira said. “It’s very difficult to bring a group to the U.S. because they’re strict with the dimensions and weight.”
The group had one large box for all their instruments, including several accordions, but the box was too big to bring on the plane. The group had to divide its contents among the members in the airport.
The airline misplaced two of the group’s bags, which finally arrived on Thursday. The dancers wear heavy boats and hats, which they fill with items when they pack so they don’t get squished in their suitcases.
Only the Sunday or party outfits the Portuguese still wear in the southern mountain region have hats, and the women wear scarves under the hats, hiding their hair. The group also has more elaborate city costumes from the 19th and 20th centuries.