Rain or shine, the eighth annual Takoma Park Folk Festival arrives today with a wide range of folk and contemporary music, dance and crafts, between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. at Takoma Park Junior High School's Lee Jordan field.

Performers highlighting this year's four-stage festival will include folk singer Pete Seeger, Washington's new wave Slickee Boys, Takoma Park's leading traditional Irish group Celtic Thunder and Rashid King and the Sounds of Africa, a group well known at Kilimanjaro's.

The reason for such a musical medley? "Takoma Park's community is so diverse in its musical tastes that we didn't want to exclude anyone," explains Sara Green, the festival's publicist. "Besides, it's a great way to expose people to different types of music."

A unique variety of dance is also offered on two dance performance stages featuring classical Indian dancer Stuart Carrera, The Ruminahui Ecuadorian Folklore Troupe and The Rock Creek Morris Women (traditional English folk dances). Music will accompany both performance and instruction.

For children, this year's festival will feature singer Barry Louis Polisar performing "Songs, Smiles and Stories: A Kids' Happy Hour," and the Takoma Repertory Theatre Company performing "Gone is Gone (Why Men Don't Do Housework)," a Hungarian folk tale.

"What is truly unique about the festival is that it has always been an entirely free, all-volunteer event," says Green. In addition, proceeds from the sale of food and festival paraphernalia have been donated each year to area nonprofit organizations, including the Takoma Park Boys and Girls Club, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and Neighbors, Inc. This year's beneficiaries will be chosen after the festival, says Green, who adds, "It's the big high we all experience that keeps this festival alive year to year."