2020 Songwriting Contest Moved Online

2020 Winners:

Shanna in a Dress 1st Place—Shanna in a Dress, Boulder, CO
Amanda Pascali 2nd Place—Amanda Pascali, Houston, TX
The Sapsuckers 3rd Place—The Sapsuckers, Nikki Grossmand & Joe Hart, Soldiers Grove, WI
Songa Fan Favorite—Songa, Chippewa Falls, WI

2020 Winners:

  • 1st Place—Shanna in a Dress, Boulder, CO
  • 2nd Place—Amanda Pascali, Houston, TX
  • 3rd Place—The Sapsuckers, Nikki Grossmand & Joe Hart, Soldiers Grove, WI
  • Fan Favorite—Songa, Chippewa Falls, WI


2020 Online Finalists:

  • Amanda Pascali
  • Jake Shane
  • High & Rising
  • Sofia Talvik
  • Theocles
  • Winnie Brave
  • Michelle Lewis
  • Jane Ross Fallon
  • John Louis
  • Songa
  • Erik Kjellkand
  • Patrick Cooper
  • Sapsuckers
  • Shanna in a Dress
  • Jane Falon

Well 12 finalists turned into 14; we couldn’t decide!

We now move into the final round.


Songs from our finalists will be released on our Facebook page, one artist per day at 4:00 p.m. CT. Judges will identify the winners from these finalists. Check out the finalists at the Fest’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/greatriverfolkfest)
Here’s the schedule:

Release Artist Song
Aug 10 Songa Love Heeds the Call
Cabin Song
Aug 11 John Louis Carry Me Home
All I Want
Aug 12 Winnie Brave Holden Hotel
Greasy Breakfast
Aug 13High & Rising In the Dark
Aug 14 Amanda Pascali Hey Amorino
Aug 15 Jake Shane If Judgement Day Is Coming
The Healer
Aug 16 Michelle Lewis Scars
Run, Run, Run,
Aug 17 Theocles Where the Clovers Grow
Johnny and Me
Aug 18 Erik Kjellkand Comatose at 2:33
Aug 19 Patrick Cooper She Leads with her Heart
Aug 20 The Sapsuckers Hoss
Aug 21 Shanna in a Dress A Face Like Yours
Aug 22 Sofia Talvik Meanwhile in Winnsboro
Pharahos & Friends
Aug 23 Jane Fallon If it Mattered
Etched in Stone


Because of the uncertainty of the corona virus this summer, we have decided to move the Songwriting contest to Facebook this year so that it can continue even as we are forced to cancel the physical Fest in late August. Music fans can watch the contest proceed throughout the summer on Facebook and contribute to the virtual tip jar. (Tips will be shared with the contest finalists.)

Songwriters can enter up to one song per week through the Fest’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/greatriverfolkfest) by submitting a video of a performance of the song. Contest winners will be selected from 12 finalists. Finalists will be announced periodically between May 18 and Aug 8. Finalists will be invited to “perform“ their song online at the end of the contest and the prize winners will be selected from the 12 finalists. Additionally, should the Fest be held, finalists will be invited to perform at the Fest on August 30.

In addition to the contest, those entering the contest can be considered for air time at GRFF Radio by including an mp3 version of the song with their email entry.

Virtual Tip Jar: You can tip the performers using PayPal or Venmo. The contest finalists will share in the tips. Please indicate "Songwriter" in your tip reference.

Contest Prizes

First place:

Sound_Strations (12K)
  • One day’s recording at Sound Strations Audio Productions, a Grammy winning recording studio in La Crosse, WI.
  • $250 cash prize
  • An invitation to perform during a future festival.

Second place:

  • $100 cash prize

Third place:

  • $50 cash prize.

How to Enter

Each Monday from May 18 to Aug 3, the Fest will post a contest announcement on its Facebook page. To enter, songwriters can post a comment to the Facebook announcement with a video of their song.

Here are the steps for entering the contest:

  1. Respond to the Facebook contest announcement with an upload of a video or a link to a streaming video location of a performance of your original song. www.facebook.com/greatriverfolkfest
  2. Send an email to contest@greatriverfolkfest.org and include the following information:
  • The song’s lyric sheet as an attachment
  • Your Facebook name (so we can match the lyrics to the song posted on Facebook)
  • Your actual name
  • A phone number where we can contact you
  • Optional: attach an mp3 of your song with the email and we might play your song on GRFF Radio. (By attaching the mp3 file, you give the Fest permission to play this song on GRFF Radio.)
  • Please limit entries to one song per week.
  • Please do not submit the same song more than once during the contest.

Rules for entries

  • All entries submitted must be original songs and shall not infringe any copyrights or any other rights of any third parties.
  • Songs may have co-writers, but only one name should be designated as the entrant.
  • By submitting a video as a comment to our Facebook announcement, and emailing a lyric sheet to contest@greatriverfolkfest.org you are formally entering the contest.
  • There is no entry fee for the contest.
  • All entries will remain eligible for the duration of the contest.
  • Entries are limited to one song per week.
  • Each entry must be a unique song; multiple entries of the same song will not be considered.
  • The entrant shall, by entering, indemnify and hold the Great River Folk Fest harmless from and against any and all claims inconsistent with the foregoing.

It is the entrant’s responsibility to ensure that the entries are complete and the media playable. The GRFF reserves the right to extend the entry deadline and/or slightly modify the contest due to the uncertainty inherent in the Convid-19 pandemic and the evolution of social distancing rules and practices.


  • GRFF On-line Songwriting Contest is open to all amateur and touring songwriters unless signed to a major record label such as Warner Music Group, EMI., Sony Music, BMG, Universal Music Group or PolyGram.
  • If Entrant is under 18 years old, the signature of a parent or guardian will be required to be included as a finalist.
  • GRFF Steering committee members are not eligible.

Judging Criteria

Each song submitted shall receive a comprehensive evaluation by a team of GRFF judges. Songs are judged on melody, composition, originality, and lyrics. Lyrics may be in any language, although an English translation is required to accompany all non-English entries.

Selection of Finalists and Winners

Finalists will be chosen throughout the summer and will be announced on the Folk Festival Facebook page (www.facebook.com/greatriverfolkfest) and on GRFF Radio.

Finalists will share in the tips generated through Facebook during the contest. (To share in the tips, finalists must provide the fest with a completed W2 form.)

After 12 finalists are chosen, we'll start the performance section of the contest where we will ask for a video or a live session from each on the finalists. These will all be posted to our Facebook page.

First, second, and third place prizes will be awarded from the performance section of the contest. While judges will still evaluate the songs, this stage of the contest replaces the on-site performances of the finalists. As at the fest contest, audience applause could influence judges, and Facebook comments and likes are welcome.

(Cash prize winners, including finalists sharing the tip jar, will need to submit a W-2 form.)

If by chance the Aug 28-30th 2020 fest is still held, we will invite all 12 finalists to the fest for a Songwriter song swap. The 2020 contest does not require a finalist to attend the Fest in order to win one of the prizes.

Past Winners


  • 1st Place - Russ Parrish, Burnsville, MN
  • 2nd Place - Peter Lindsey, Dekalb, IL
  • 3rd Place (tie) - Despina Pafralides, Round Lake Park, IL
  • 3rd Place (tie) - David Nash, Onalaska, WI


  • 1st Place – Greg Gilbertson, Chippewa Falls, WI
  • 2nd Place – David Nash, Onalaska, WI
  • 3rd Place – Fran Felton, Viroqua, WI


  • 1st Place – Laura Joy, Oak Park, IL
  • 2nd Place – Randy Adams, Chippewa Falls, WI
  • 3rd Place – Rick Thompson, La Crescent, MN
  • 4th Place – Jim Armstrong & Pippa Armstrong, Winona, MN


  • 1st Place – Blaine Howard, Fairchild, WI
  • 2nd Place – Traci Stinebrink, Rhinelander, WI
  • 3rd Place – Mike Caucutt, La Crosse, WI


  • 1st Place – Michael Monroe, Grand Marais, MN
  • 2nd Place – Jane Fallon, Brookline NH
  • 3rd Place – Joe Schwem, Bozeman, MT


  • 1st Place – Derek Olsen, New Lisbon, WI
  • 2nd Place – Jeff Cozy, La Crosse, WI
  • 3rd Place – Jim Gary, Elmhurst, IL


  • 1st Place - Aric Sampson, Galesville, WI
  • 2nd Place - Katie Dahl, Baileys Harbor, WI
  • 3rd Place - Joe DeLucia, Port Washington, WI


  • 1st Place - Barb and Tom Webber - Milwaukee, WI
  • 2nd Place - Roger Wendover (Brojo Rog) - LaCrosse, WI
  • 3rd Place - Scott Wilcox - Tomah, WI


  • 1st place - Joe Danielson & Casey Yeager - Cadott, WI
  • 2nd place - Roger Wendover - LaCrosse, WI
  • 3rd place - Kris Risch & Lisa Risch - Holmen, WI


  • 1st place - Tim Fast - Elk River, MN


  • 1st place - Mike Caucutt - LaCrosse, WI
russ_Parish_350 2019 Songwriting Contest winner, Russ Parish of Burnsville, MN.
Greg Gilbertson 2018 Songwriting Contest winner, Greg Gilbertson of Chippewa Falls, WI performs on the main stage during Sunday’s concert.
laura Joy 2017 songwriting Contest winner, Laura Joy of Oak Park, IL performs on the main stage during Sunday’s concert.
Blaine Howard Photo_J_Weigel
2016 Songwriting Contest winner, Blaine Howard of Fairchild, WI performs during the contest. (Photo Jerry Weigel).
MichaelMonroe_2015 (12K) 2015 Songwriting Contest winner, Michael Monroe of Grand Marais, MN, performs from the Main State at the Sunday Concert (Photo Jerry Weigel).
DerekOlson_2014_350 (26K) 2014 Songwriting Contest Winner Derek Olson Performs at the Sunday Concert (photo Jerry Weigel)
Aric Sampson) Aric Sampson performs during the Sunday Closing Concert after winning the 2013 Great River Folk Fest Songwriters and Performers Contest earlier in the day.

Casey Yeager and Joe Danielson
2011 winners Casey Yeager and Joe Danielson perform their winning songs.