Roughly one million visitors attend the Folklife Festival each year, engaging with tradition bearers from the United States and around the world. This annual celebration of cultural democracy draws attention to the importance of cultural heritage and community engagement.
While eagerly anticipating the 2015 Festival, you can use your experience at past Festivals as inspiration and motivation to seek out artists and tradition bearers in your own community. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Smithsonian Folkways Recordings
You can listen to clips from more than 2,000 albums of regional folk music and more from all over the world, thanks to the efforts of Smithsonian Folkways. You can also listen to selected songs via curated playlists, or tune into Folkways Radio.
- Like Smithsonian Folkways on Facebook, and check their event listings for updates on upcoming performances.
Folklife Festival performers continue sharing their traditions year-round, as a part of other festivals and through individual performances. Look up your favorite performers, and see where they’re touring in the future.
- Many of the China: Tradition and the Art of Living musicians are taking part in the China Now festival at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto, Canada, July 11 to 13, 2014.
- Abigail Washburn, a performer in the China program, will perform with husband Béla Fleck at Lisner Auditorium in Washington, D.C., on August 31.
Regional Folk Festivals
There are folklore groups and societies throughout the country that provide listings of local folk festivals and cultural heritage events to get you started (for example, North Carolina Folklore Society and the Western States Folklore Society).
- The annual Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival is held at the Howard County Fairgrounds in West Friendship, Maryland. The festival features sheep-shearing demos, craft workshops, and sheep-herding presentations.
- The Working Waterfront Festival takes place September 27 and 28 in New Bedford, Massachusetts, which is America’s largest commercial fishing port. Experience the culture of the maritime industry through cooking demos, music, and cultural presentations.
Music Venues and Festivals
Keep your eyes open for local or regional musicians who perform folk or traditional music near you.
- Banjos on the Waterfront, just one of the events for Making Music: The Banjo in Baltimore and Beyond, takes place at the Baltimore Museum of Industry on July 17, and will feature Smithsonian Folkways artist Tony Trischka.
- Influential bluegrass band and Smithsonian Folkways group The Seldom Scene will play at the Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival on August 16 and 17, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
Food is a particularly enjoyable way to explore cultures, and chances are you can try a smorgasbord of different dishes within a short distance of your home. Ask friends for recommendations, or do some online research to find a taste of something new nearby!
- Swahili Village, the restaurant behind the Kenya program’s Choma Grill at the 2014 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, serves delicious Kenyan food at their establishment in Beltsville, Maryland.
- Traditional and ethnic grocery stores abound and offer the opportunity for you to take something home and try a new recipe. Most of the shopping for the foodways demonstrations at the China program’s Five Spice Kitchen was done at Great Wall Supermarket, which has locations in Falls Church, Virginia, and Rockville, Maryland. Check the Festival Blog’s recipes for inspiration!
Kendra Speak is a special events intern this summer at the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. She will be a senior at The George Washington University, where she double majors in international affairs and geography with a concentration in contemporary cultures and societies.