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O.T. Baker
O.T. Baker

Texas Folklife Festival founder leaves legacy of culture, folklore

(Jan. 24, 2006)--Nearly four decades ago, O.T. Baker, former field and research director and project manager at UTSA's Institute of Texan Cultures, headed a delegation to co-sponsor the Festival of American Folklife with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.

A few years later, in 1972, Baker founded the Texas Folklife Festival in San Antonio with 2,000 food and arts and crafts vendors and music and dance performers.

Baker died Saturday, Jan. 21 at age 95.

Jo Ann Andera, ITC director of festivals, said Baker was the visionary behind the Texas Folklife Festival, which now boasts 10,000 participants representing more than 40 ethnic groups from dozens of cities and counties within the Lone Star State.

"Little did he know what an impact the festival would have on our city and state," said Andera. "It is incalculable how many lives the festival has touched and friendships it has forged. O.T. was a man ahead of his time, and we are grateful recipients of his genius and creativity."

Baker retired from ITC in 1977 but continued to participate in the Texas Folklife Festival, setting up a smokehouse and sharing his Native American and Irish traditions with the more than 70,000 visitors who attend the four-day festival, which will celebrate its 35th anniversary June 8-11.

A celebration of Baker's life is 2 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 29 at Highland Park Baptist Church, 5206 Balcones Drive, in Austin.

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