Midwinter 2021

2021 Festival of Christmas and Midwinter Traditions
December 29 – January 1

Join us for the 74th annual Festival of Christmas and Midwinter Traditions! Founded by Jane Farwell in 1947 as an antidote to the growing commercialization of the season, this festival celebrates and shares the customs and traditions of people worldwide.

This year’s Festival of Christmas and Midwinter Traditions will take place virtually. Featuring singing, dance, craft, and cooking workshops, teas and socials, evening parties, and more, the festival will be a joyful, immersive celebration of folk art and community. Additional details will be added as they are available. 

Workshops & Activities

Click here for a PDF schedule.
Like life, this schedule is subject to change. 

Singing Workshops with Val Mindel
We’ll learn a handful of songs each session, pulling old and new songs from various Americana traditions, including Appalachian, early country, bluegrass and gospel. We’ll learn melodies and harmonies by ear (word sheets provided). Tune in by yourself or with your favorite singing buddies, and come ready to sing a lot.

Polish Dance Workshops with Duane Tomka
Join Duane Tomka for workshops in Polish folk dancing. As the choreographer of Syrena Polish Folk Dance Ensemble since 2006, Duane worked closely with beloved Polish folk dance legend Ada Dziewanowska.

On December 29th, we’ll explore dances of the Kaszuby region. The Kaszuby region is part of the Pomeranian region on the Baltic Sea. Being seafaring people, they encountered many other cultures which have influenced their dances and costumes. The Kaszuby dances are mostly gentle, joyful, and graceful. Although they have many characteristic traits of the dances from the rest of Poland, especially from the neighboring regions of Warmia, Wielkopolska and even Sląsk, they reveal obvious Swedish and German influences both in music and in dance steps. The dances can be divided into ones done by the rural population and those done by the people of the sea – the sailors and the fishermen. They were danced during various events in the life of the Kashubian people. They were part of seasonal or family celebrations (such as harvest or wedding), and of rituals and ceremonies which often had their origin in pagan customs.

On December 30th we’ll learn dances of the Spisz region. The Spisz (“Spee-sh”) region, dividing the two countries of Poland and Slovakia, is located one third in Poland and two thirds in Slovakia, in the Tatry mountain range.  In this region the border between the two countries is hard to distinguish as the people share the same music, dances, traditions, and even dialect. The cultural mix of the Spisz region was especially significant during the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Spisz region was heavily influenced by the movement of people; some leaving Poland to work the fields of Hungary, and also by men from Poland and Czechoslovakia who were recruited into the Austro-Hungarian army. Serving in this army these men were introduced to Hungarian music and folk dance including one of the most famous and diverse of all dances and melodies…the czardasz (“char-dah-sh”).  Upon their return from Hungary the people of Spisz adapted these czaradsz melodies and they became part of the folk culture of this region in Poland.

Balkan Dance Workshop with Michael Kuharksi
Balkan folk dancer Michael Kuharski will lead us in a workshop on Balkan folk dance! Stay tuned for a full workshop description, and get ready to dance with Michael!

Wycinanki Workshops with Becky Rehl
This decorative folk art dates back to the mid-1800s, and may have its origins in the decorative snipping of sheepskins, with sheep shears, for window coverings in peasant homes. Traditional designs of the Łowicz region incorporate roosters, hens, and other birds, typically with many different colors layered on a black background cut-out, as well as stylized floral motifs.

In each workshop, Becky will guide us in creating flowers or birds for up to four greeting cards. Both workshops will be similar, and are not progressive, so you may attend either one or both. Many examples of Wycinanki will be available to help inspire you. There will be design ideas shared via the Festival Access Page, along with information on supplies and tools that are needed. 

Cooking Workshop with J. Miller
Meals are always a highlight of Folklore Village festivals, and just because we’re not physically together doesn’t mean we can’t still share meals! Join J. Miller of RedBarn Catering and cook along, creating a delicious feast at your own home. For this years Midwinter Traditions cooking class, we’ll be making a traditional Hungarian Chicken Paprikash served w Spaetzle. We’ll also make a Chickpea Paprikash for our vegetarian friends. Hope to cook with you soon!

Ostfriesen Tea Ceremony with Dan Lippitt and Glenn Mitroff
A tea presentation by Dan and Glenn of the Ostfriesen Tea Shop! Prepare your own tea and treats at home, learn about the culture of tea in East Friesia, and enjoy time with friends old and new. Watch the Festival Access Page for ideas and recipes that will help you recreate the Ostfriesen Tea Ceremony in your home.

Remembering Ada Dziewanowska with Jaś Dziewanowski
Many of the Polish folk dances we will learn at this year’s festival come from the repertoire of beloved Polish folk dance legend Ada Dziewanowska, who passed away in July 2021 at the age of 104. A cherished friend of Jane Farwell and the Folklore Village community, Ada shared her passion for Polish dance and culture at many Folklore Village Easter and Midwinter Festivals. Ada’s son Jaś Dziewanowski will provide us with additional context for our Polish dance workshops, looking at how Ada’s relationship with Polish folk dance and Folklore Village. Participants are welcome to share memories.
This social and cultural session is open to all. 

pArty with Tova Gorman-Baer
Come to a pArty with Tova Gorman-Baer! Bring a craft to work on, or make something new on the spot, or just relax and chat with friends! This is intended to be a low-key, unstructured workshop where anything goes. If you would like to craft but need some inspiration, Tova will have suggestions and prompts on hand. At the end of the workshop we will have a show and tell where you can show off your crafty creation or cheer for others.

Evening Parties
Featuring music and dances from multiple folk traditions, brain breaks, time to socialize, and surprises, the evening parties will cap off each day with a celebration of community and all things folk.

December 29th: Music, body percussion, brain breaks, and community! Party theme to be announced soon. 

December 30th At Home Jam Party: Streaming live from Bob Walser’s…it’s an evening of intergenerational jamming! Join Bob Walser, Smack Young Walser, Addie Rosenwinkle, and Danielle Enblom for an energetic evening of music and merrymaking. Dance, jam along, request music, and interact with the band, all from the comfort of your own home! Click here for more about Bob & Danielle’s music.

December 31st New Year’s Eve Party: An evening of singing, dancing, and music in the style of our traditional New Year’s Eve party. The evening will include singing with Val Mindel, dancing with Michael Kuharski, music with Amy McFarland and Maria Terres, brain breaks with Johanna Gorman-Baer, surprises, and shenanigans. You’ll even get to watch the bonfire burn at Folklore Village!

Festival Band
Maria Terres & Amy McFarland of Rare Privilege will bring their musical talents to the evening parties. Want to play along at home? You can join the virtual festival band, with sheet music accessible via the Festival Access Page. To avoid feedback we ask that you mute yourself while playing, but we hope to see a wide array of instruments on our Zoom screens!

Community Projects
Community projects are a favorite feature of the Festival of Christmas and Midwinter Traditions. Join us in making a virtual crankie this year! Inspired by a song we’ll sing with Val Mindel on New Year’s Eve, participants will be invited to share images that remind them of the song’s lyrics. Send the images to programs@folklorevillage.org, and we’ll compile a virtual crankie to share on New Year’s Eve. Lyrics will be shared on the Festival Access Page. 

We’ve got another project in the works, too. Do you have favorite images from previous Midwinter Festivals? Start collecting them because we’re going to want to see them!


Festival admission is broken down into adult tickets ($100), teen tickets ($75), youth tickets ($50), and family admission ($200). Your admission gives you access to all of the festival workshops, activities, and parties. 

Please note: family admission is available to families living under the same roof. Children under 5 are free and do not count towards your ticket price. 

Accessing the Festival

Once we have received your registration and payment, you will receive a link to the Festival Access Page. This page includes all the information you will need to access the virtual festival. Recipes, details for the Wycinanki workshops, sheet music, and more will be added to this page. 

The link to the Festival Access Page will be sent to the email you include in your registration form. Can’t find the link? Be sure to check your spam folder. If you have any questions or difficulties with the Festival Access Page, please contact Kelli Emerson, Program Manager, at programs@folklorevillage.org. 

Artistic Staff

Val Mindel is a longtime musician, teacher and workshop leader, known for helping singers achieve that close, buzzy harmony that is a pillar of American old-time and early country harmony. She also addresses such indefinables as tone (that high lonesome sound), ornamentation, lead singing and more. She has taught at numerous music camps in the U.S. and abroad, including: the Ashokan Center (Southern Week and the Old-Time Rollick), the Augusta Heritage Center (Vocal and Old-Time weeks), Centrum (Voice Works and Fiddle Tunes), Allegheny Echoes and, in the U.K., Sore Fingers. She is a founding member of the California-based Any Old Time string band (check out the band’s compilation album, I Bid You Goodnight on Smithsonian Folkways), and has two CDs with daughter and old-time country musician Emily Miller (In the Valley and Close to Home). Val is also the author of So You Want to Sing Folk Music, part of the “So You Want to Sing” series for Rowman & Littlefield and the National Association of Teachers of Singing. She lives in Elkins, West Virginia. 

Duane Tomka has been Polish folk dancing since the age of eight, first with the P.R.C.U.A Dancers of Milwaukee and later with the Krakow Polish Dancers of Milwaukee from 1983-1999. In 1999, Duane joined Syrena Polish Folk Dance Ensemble, led by the recognized Ada Dziewanowska. In his first seven years with Syrena, Duane performed and grew his Polish folk dance experience under the artistic direction of Pani Ada and choreographer Konrad Wiecek. Following the departure of Konrad in 2006, Duane took over as instructor, initially working with Ada on perfecting and enhancing her existing choreographies before pursuing a four-year degree in Polish folk dance choreography in 2006. The intensive choreographer’s program, held annually in Rzeszów, Poland, consisted of six days of dance instruction from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. with a focus on various regional dances, costuming, ballet, drill and warm-up techniques, organizational leadership and music and singing.  In 2012, Duane graduated with his choreographer’s degree in Polish folk dance and assumed the role of Syrena choreographer. 

First as Syrena instructor and now as choreographer, Duane has always tried to leave his own mark on Syrena by creating dynamic and entertaining, yet authentic, new choreographies for the following:  REGIONAL DANCES: Spisz, Kaszuby, Sądeckie, Podhale, Opoczno, Przeworsk, Żywiec, Rzeszów; NATIONAL DANCES: Krakowiak, Oberek, Mazur, Polonez.

In 2019, Syrena performed at the International Polish Folk Dance Festival in Rzeszów, Poland. The ensemble had not participated in this festival, held every three years for Polish folk dance groups located outside of Poland, since 1985.

In July 2021, Syrena’s beloved Pani Ada peacefully passed away at the age of 104.  Pani Ada was not only an artistic director and mentor for Duane, but also an “adopted grandmother.” Her love of Polish folk dance, customs, and traditions left a lasting impression on Duane, one that he intends to carry on during his years as Syrena choreographer. 

Michael Kuharski began folk dancing in Madison in 1969 & has been leading & teaching in that community ever since. He speaks Serbo-Croatian & Bulgarian (also a little Macedonian, Albanian, & Romanian), has made 14 trips to the Balkans and one to Poland to study folklore, language and culture while collecting dances, music, instruments, costumes, friends, & dance-relevant anecdotes.  Michael is lead organizer of the annual Folk Ball Festival, helps with June Camp, and was Artistic Director of Ensemble Narodno for twenty-five years.  He teaches weekly at Madison Folkdance Unlimited, annually at Door County Folk Festival, and elsewhere upon invitation.  Michael plays Balkan accordion and piano for contra, transcribes folk songs by the score. Beware his edited versions of favorite folkdance recordings and try to catch him sitting down! Motto: DANCE ON!!

Becky Rehl‘s lifelong affinity for color and design flourished when she became heavily involved with Folklore Village in the 1980s; she became enamored of Wycinanki at Folklore Village’s Polish Easter Festivals. Becky loves working from traditional motifs and techniques and experimenting with her own design elements, whether she’s cutting Wycinanki or Kaleidocuts, creating paper or fabric stars, or weaving Danish hearts. Her seemingly endless patience is key to both the creation and the teaching of these folk arts. Becky has taught folk crafts, as well as music and dance, to thousands of school children, and has led folk art workshops for families and teachers at Folklore Village and at UW Milwaukee Stringalongs.


J. Miller of RedBarn Catering is our consummate chef for all Folklore Village festivals. Since we won’t be able to put J.’s awesome food on your plate in-person this year, we are instead offering an opportunity for festival participants to learn directly from J. Get insights on how to get a recipe just right and cook up a delicious feast with J.!

Johanna Gorman-Baer has been teaching theater in many forms for the last ten years. She is constantly inspired by how collaborative play can challenge the imagination to grow beyond the individual to create artistic community. Folklore Village remains her second home, where for over a decade she’s led workshops for all ages in theater, storytelling, and movement.

Tova Gorman-Baer is a lifelong Folklore Villager and fiber artist. Tova will be hosting a pArty on December 31st. What’s a pArty, you ask? Equal parts scavenger hunt and collaborative art project, a pArty will let you see household objects in a whole new way. Together, we will decide on a folk art-related theme, gather materials from our own homes, and create spontaneous works of art together. At the end of the workshop, we will share our creations in a live-action art show! Come join Tova in creative and social fun for all ages.

Other contributing community members:

Jaś  Dziewanowski
Remembering Ada Dziewanowska

Dave Kantor

Dan Lippitt & Glenn Mitroff
Ostfriesen Tea Ceremony & Luminaries

Amy McFarland & Maria Terres
Festival Band

Bob Walser, Smack Young Walser, Addie Rosenwinkle, & Danielle Enblom
December 30th At Home Jam Party

Greg Winz
Bonfire & Recipes