The 24th Anchorage Folk Festival, an annual celebration of folk and folk-inspired music, begins Thursday in Alaska's biggest city. The festival runs two weeks until Jan. 27.

The free public event is run by a nonprofit and funded by membership, commercial contributors, advertisement and donations from businesses and private individuals. This Anchorage cultural staple offers shows, educational workshops, contests, classes dancing, open jams and other fun activities that are, more or less, family friendly.

This year, the festival features over 150 acts -- an estimated 500 individual performers -- and two guest artist brought up by the Festival's board of directors to spice things up.

"We were looking for something kind of different for this year; a different kind of folk music," Fomer president of the board, Brett Jokela explains.

The Scandinavian-influenced Boston, Mass., band Blue Moose and the Unbuttoned Zippers definitely fit the bill. According to Jokela the band uses a Swedish instrument called the nyckelharpa, a sort of viola meets lap steel-type instrument, that Jokela describes as "having quite an eerie sound."

"I could imagine trolls coming up from under the bridge to this kind of music," Jokela jokes.

Along with Blue Moose, Cahalen Morrison and Eli West of Seattle, Wash., a "new old time bluegrass" duo, will grace the festival stage as the event's second guest performers.

Jokela, who has played in the festival for the last 12 years and still sits as a board member, is adamant about how important volunteers are to the two-week operation.

"Because we're a small volunteer-run organization we don't get a lot of the notice that some of the bigger music organizations, like the symphony, get," he said. "(The folk festival) is probably thee biggest music event in the state, and it pulls a national following ... There are more people involved in this event than just about any other event of its kind in the state, besides probably the State Fair, and that includes volunteers."

Many of the festival's volunteers, as well as performers, are UAA students. "We've been using UAA as a venue for years," Jokela said. "We sort of fell in with the student union activities group, who also puts on shows, and grew from there. Now we're holding some of the events in the dorms!"

The relationship inspires a lot of crossover, allowing UAA students and young music enthusiasts to participate and learn from other folk-inspired musicians. "The community really benefits from this event," Jokela said. "Most people (who play or teach classes during the festival) do it not with an ulterior motive in mind but to boost understanding and appreciation for folk music ... most of them are just doing it for the sake of the music."

You can check out a list of Anchorage Folk Festival events below or visit the Fest's website for more. Most of the event's performances will be held on the "main stage" located in the Wendy Williamson Auditorium on UAA's Campus (Lake Otis Blvd. and 36th Ave).

Find a list of main acts scheduled below, but find out much, much more including times, locations and additional band information on the Anchorage Folk Festival's website. And check out the workshop page for a blue million free musical workshops to polish your skills in everything from musical technique and dance to using a microphone -- even "mando shredding."

WEEK ONE

Thursday, Jan. 17

Beginning at 7 p.m. in the Wendy Williamson Auditorium at UAA and running until 9:30 p.m., in order of appearance:

-9:15 Pending

Friday, Jan. 18

Beginning round 6:45 with The Board Band, a brief welcome by the AFF Board, followed by bands listed below in order of appearance. Show runs until 10 p.m.

With the main attraction and GUEST ARTISTS: Blue Moose and the Unbuttoned Zippers

Following the show, and for the late night type, head over to Spenard Roadhouse for an open jam beginning at 11 p.m. and running until 2 a.m. Bring your own instruments (BYOI)!

Saturday, Jan. 19

Beginning at Noon in the Wendy Williamson Auditorium. In order of appearance.

GUEST ARTISTS: Blue Moose and the Unbuttoned Zippers

Beginning at 7 p.m. in the Wendy Williamson Auditorium and running until 10 p.m., in order of appearance:

Sunday, Jan. 20

Beginning at 12:30 p.m. in the Wendy Williamson Auditorium and running until 5 p.m. In order of appearance.

Beginning at 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.:

GUEST ARTISTS: Blue Moose and the Unbuttoned Zippers

WEEK TWO

Friday, Jan. 25

Beginning at 7 p.m. in the Wendy Williamson Auditorium. In order of appearance:

GUEST ARTISTS: Cahalen and Eli

Following the show, and for the late night type, head over to Spenard Roadhouse for an open jam beginning at 11 p.m. and running until 2 a.m. Bring your own instruments (BYOI)!

Saturday, Jan. 26

Beginning at Noon in the Wendy Williamson Auditorium until 6 p.m. In order of appearance:

GUEST ARTISTS: Cahalen and Eli

Beginning at 7 p.m. until 10:15 p.m.:

Sunday, Jan. 27

Beginning at 12:30 p.m. in the Wendy Williamson Auditorium until 5 p.m. In order of appearance:

Beginning 7 p.m. until 10:30 p.m.:

GUEST ARTISTS: Cahalen and Eli