The largest annual cultural event in the U.S. capital is back: Smithsonian Folklife Festival! Taking place outdoors on the National Mall only five stops from our office, you can enjoy the heart of Washington, D.C., while learning about international and national cultures in a whole new light. Having been to this event myself, I can guarantee that it is filled with a diverse group of people, activities, and foods, making it well worth your time. The event is free to the public and features activities and foods from two distinct cultural presentations: Basque: Innovation by Culture and Sounds of California.
Closest stop via metro is L’Enfant Plaza on the Yellow Line
June 29th – July 4th and July 7th – 10th
11am – 5pm
Special events begin at 6:30pm
What To Expect
Started in 1967, this festival highlights cultural traditions and practices of the featured areas, with hands-on demonstrations that make you feel like you’re almost there! The goal of the festival is to present various regions, near and far, to the people of the greater Washington, D.C. area, increasing awareness of diversity beyond the hustle and bustle of the city. With musicians, artists, cooks, craft-makers, storytellers, and more, you are sure to learn plenty of things and immerse yourself into a whole new world! To help you out, we’ve provided some information on the two cultures featured this year.
Basque: Innovation by Culture
The Basque country spans Northern Spain and southwestern France, bordering the beautiful Pyrenees mountains. They were among the first European explorers to discover and impact the Western hemisphere, influencing regions in Idaho, Scotland, Mexico, Argentina, and more. The people of this region are known for their strong cultural preservation and practice, their pride felt throughout their community. However, the Basque look outward and are progressive in their search for sustainability across borders, making them economically innovative. They were on the forefront of the Industrial Revolution with the discovery of iron in their mountains, and now focus much of their resources on sustainable energy and engineering.
The festival will feature musicians, dancers, boat-makers, cooks, and other members of the region, sure to provide you with insight into their way of life across the Atlantic Ocean.
Sounds of California
Although it may seem familiar and not too far away, California is home to a constantly shifting culture, influenced strongly by Latin American communities and traditions. Bordering the Pacific Ocean, the state spans a large portion of the West Coast, creating ample land for incoming populations. With the greatest amount of diversity than any other U.S. state, and home to the largest Native American population, California is comprised of millions of individuals who migrated to the area to seek identity. One in four immigrants live in the state, making it on the forefront of one of the most heated debates in the country.
The festival will feature concerts and activities that provide a glimpse into musical culture and the dynamic shift of identities in the state. These artists tie their traditions from their original homelands into the customs of California, bridging together entirely distinct regions.
The cultures and traditions are sure to make you feel as though you’re in another state or country, so think of it as a stay-cation! We hope you can make it to this spectacular festival and enjoy it just as much as we have in the past.
For more information, visit the official page for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival here.