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June 29, 2013

“Shout out to RAIN…”

Rain falls on the National Mall on June 28, 2013, day 3 of the 2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Photo by Sojin Kim

Rain falls on the National Mall on June 28, 2013, day 3 of the 2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Photo by Sojin Kim

On a small but growing shout out wall inside a staff trailer on the National Mall, someone has written on a hot pink heart: Shout out to RAIN…for bringing people together. The heart went up after a rousing concert by the Seldom Scene at Danubia Stage where, while sheets of rain blanketed the Festival grounds, crowds braved a fierce but fickle storm. There is something surreal about seeing just about one thousand folks, huddled together under a vinyl tent, rendered frankly unaware of the weather by the soulful twang of a bluegrass band. Backstage during the show, members of our tech crew sloshed through three inches of muddy water to lay flooring over the flooded grass, young Hungarian boys snuck tissues from the band’s stash to wipe their muddied costumes, and staffers waded while waiting to greet the band with their increasingly earthy green room requests.

Earlier the same day, having been chased off the site by the storm’s earlier incarnation, visitors and participants alike found themselves convened in the National Museum of American History, dancing and singing while Hungarian violinists urged the sun back with a spirited set. Staffers sprouted mud-made polka-dotted legs while puddle-jumping to reopen the Festival after a brief afternoon hiatus. A brown rain spot expanded exponentially as dedicated dancers partied—barefoot—through the evening in our Tokaj Tavern. And with each new downpour, mud-puddle, and pair of abandoned shoes, fresh opportunities to bond abounded.

Returning to a staff trailer at sundown while the dance party continued to rage on the National Mall, a summer intern posted the hot-pink homage to our afternoon. Shout out to RAIN. Somehow it sums up our Friday impeccably. The Folklife Festival has always been a little scrappy, in the best of ways. It’s fun to be around when scraps take root.

Chloe Ahmann serves as our Festival’s Special Events Coordinator. During the academic year, she teaches at George Washington University, where she is earning her Ph.D. in Anthropology.

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