Some things never change, and with the Savannah Folk Festival, that's a good thing.The same events return every year. "Everything is the same, just a different performer," says Chris Desa, president of the Savannah Folk Music Society, which presents the annual festival. "I think people do enjoy it."The 24th annual Savannah Folk Festival will open Oct. 11 with the Folkfest in Ellis Square, a showcase of local performers. Three events, including a youth songwriting competition, will be Oct. 12 and the big concert at Grayson Stadium will be Oct. 13.Headlining this year's festival is Peter Yarrow, member of the iconic folk group Peter, Paul and Mary and co-writer of several classic songs, including "Puff the Magic Dragon." Even though he studied violin as a child, Yarrow says he never took folk music seriously and obtained a degree in experimental psychology.Then a music class in 1959 changed everything. "I saw the transformation in students taking the course," Yarrow says."It was audited by hundreds, thousands, of students. It made me aware that music can be transformational."After that, I loved the music," he says. "I loved the way it brings people together and the community together, just as it did in the 1963 March on Washington and other events of the Civil Rights Movement."On Aug. 28, the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, Yarrow returned for the commemoration. As part of Peter, Paul and Mary, he performed at the original march.The group also included Noel "Paul" Stookey and Mary Travers. "We were all in Greenwich Village at the same time we started," Yarrow says. "My manager created the group."At the time, Greenwich Village in New York City was the center of the mid-20th century American folk music revival. Yarrow vividly remembers the first time the three sang together."We were singing 'Mary had a Little Lamb' and it was magic," he says. "When you're that young, you fall in love and are not cautious - you just go for it. We lost Mary four years ago. It was a huge loss. But the music continues," he said. "Mary's presence is still powerfully felt in my heart and voice when I'm singing alone or with others."The trio's first album, "Peter, Paul & Mary" in 1962, sold more than 2 million copies. As a result, the group toured extensively and recorded numerous albums, and Yarrow is the co-writer of such classic songs as "Day is Done," "Light One Candle" and "The Great Mandala.""Traditional music has remained traditional music," Yarrow says. "It's the music of conscience, the music of caring, the music of the heart, not written for bucks but because of something inside you."It continues to be part of the American and international landscape," he says. "It is a very powerful force that continues. "When I come and sing in Savannah, I think people will remember this spirit of being involved and working together to make a more just society," Yarrow says. "That is my music and that's what I sing."But first and foremost, Yarrow is an activist who uses music as a tool to further his causes. He is a political activist and has lent his support to causes that include opposition to the Vietnam War, homelessness and hunger, and the promotion of civil rights, equal rights and education. In 2000, Yarrow co-founded Operation Respect, an international education program. He also co-founded both the Newport Folk Festival and the Kerrville Folk Festival."The activism exploded at the time of the Civil Rights Movement, where we saw if we put our hearts and bodies together and moved and worked, we could change the direction of the future of society," Yarrow says. "That was the big catalyst of the March on Washington."Today, Yarrow spends most of his time on Operation Respect."It's a nonprofit that is committed to making sure children grow up in an environment that is peaceful, caring, loving and supportive, particularly in schools," he says. Another program, "Don't Laugh at Me," grew out of Operation Respect. "We want kids to grow up not to worship money, not to be greedy, not to wish for fame, but to value what's really valuable inside them," Yarrow says."It is because the educational process is so focused on tests and academic achievement. We need to focus on the other side of the report card, as well."I'm also a big advocate for peace in Israel," he says. "And I've been working with the Newtown community, and have created a concert of caring and togetherness that will be televised nationally."Yarrow uses music to bring home a message. "I'm focused on activism," he says. "Music is a tool to bring people together for me. "I love the music, but primarily its meaning to me, its fidelity, is to allow people to take off their masks and love each other, to commit to being a productive member of society," Yarrow says. "I think it's about us, rather than me."In addition to Yarrow, other performers will include the Waymores, John Flynn and Major Handy. Desa will perform at Folkfest on Oct. 11 and act as the emcee at the big concert on Oct. 13. A native of India, Desa sometimes finds people are surprised that he has a passion for American folk music. "I grew up with it in India," he says. "I come from a musical family."As many 3,000 people attend the folk festival over three days, Desa says. "Ellis Square is packed and that's just the local performers," he says.This year's Youth Songwriting Competition has attracted six entrants. "They're really good this year," Desa says. "They range in age from 12 to 15."The festival is a real bargain, he says. "Everything is free," Desa says. The city of Savannah provides $12,000 in funding, and money is raised through the annual art guitar auction. "It's really hard to put something on of this stature," Desa says. "It's a lot of pain and suffering, but it's worth it. "People don't realize what an asset the Folk Society is to Savannah. I talked to a lady who was Pete Seeger's neighbor the other day and she had only recently heard about us. "People should try to support organizations like ours," Desa says. "You get the rare opportunity to see Peter Yarrow and all these people at this amazing price."