Jane Farwell was born on January 18, 1916, on her family farm near Ridgeway, Wisconsin. Creating a major in “Rural Recreation,” she graduated with honors in 1938 from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Deciding that folk dancing was going to be the main thrust of her recreational program, she established the country’s first folk dance camps, including those in Ohio, New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Jane is credited as one of the founders of the modern folk dance movement, whose enthusiasts in the United States came to number in the thousands.
In 1955, Jane married Jergen Hinrichs, a young farmer from Germany, who was doing an internship on her father’s farm. The couple moved to Germany where she lived in Ostfriesland for 11 years. Throughout Germany, and in Switzerland, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, and Turkey, she continued to teach folk dancing and to study European folklore. In 1956, Jane was invited to tour Japan together with four other well-known folk dance leaders.
In 1966, Jane returned to Wisconsin, and purchased the old Wakefield School near Ridgeway, on an acre of land which her grandfather had donated to the county back in the early 1880s. There she created and directed Folklore Village — the culmination of her ideas about festivals, folklore, dance, recreation, community, and the land.
In 1988, Jane and her Folklore Village community realized their dream of building a larger space to house the cultural activities expressed through dance, music, craft, and foodways traditions—Farwell Hall, a large barn-like structure that contains an acclaimed dance floor, a certified kitchen, classrooms, a gallery, and office space.
When Jane passed away in April 1993, she deeded her family farm—lands and buildings— to her beloved organization, Folklore Village, where her work to promote opportunities for individuals and communities to honor, experience, and support ethnic and traditional folklife continues to this day.
Festivals are the heart of Folklore Village. From 1947 to 1966, Jane directed her original Festival of Christmas and Midwinter Traditions in Mount Horeb, WI, in order to combat the growing commercialization of Christmas and the ignorance of increasing numbers of young people about the diverse pageantry, foods, and music of Christmas. We continue to present some of Jane’s original festivals, as well as others that have grown organically from our diverse community base. In 2016, we presented six festivals – a Spring Scandinavian Music and Dance Weekend, an English Country Dance & Music Weekend, a Cajun Music and Dance Weekend, a Fall Swedish Music and Dance Weekend, the 69th Festival of Christmas and Midwinter Traditions, and our newest festival – Sustainability Weekend – in September. All embody Jane’s original vision of a place where people can come to dance, sing, play music, eat, and live folk customs from the world over. In keeping with Jane’s unique philosophy of recreation, we continue to blend seasonal celebrations, ethnic traditions, and to emphasize the importance of rural communities, family, and people of all ages creating their own fun.
In 2016, Folklore Village celebrated Jane Farwell’s Centennial, recognized by the joint state legislature and Governor Scott Walker; and marked by special events, a reunion weekend, and the publication of the Folklore Village Cookbook.