Smithsonian Folklife Festival

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Washington, District of Columbia - 1-202-633-1000

Smithsonian Folklife Festival Washington Reviews

Africancrab Africanc…
777 reviews
Focus on HIV/Aids and unfolding the AIDS Memorial Quilt Jul 10, 2012
After Andrew (Andy99) recommended that we attend the Folklife Festival, I took time to read more about the previous festivals to get a handle on what to expect. But even before we met Andrew, we had walked through the tented area where the festival was to be held. It began on June 26- July 4, then July 4 - July 8. The colorful tents covered a variety of themes; cultural issues, storytelling, dance and music performances, crafts and cooking demonstrations. The theme for the 2012 festival is Arts and Creativity. This Festival is held annually; sponsored by the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. Even though there was a strong focus on AIDS this year, the festival celebrates cultural traditions from all over the world. Each year focuses on a different theme.

We went on the last day of the festival; it was incredibly hot outside, but the smell of food in the air was so inviting for a moment we forgot how hot it was (smile)! I was attracted to the HIV/AIDS focus tent where a huge muraled quilt was being made the first time we walked around. Today it was in full swing and it is brilliant. With 48,000 panels, it marks the 25th anniversary of HIV/AIDS. The sheer magnitude of the quilt, tells of the importance of focusing our attention to the plight of those with AIDS. I only saw a small part of it; it would take days literally to see the entire quilt.

Pieced together, the quilt runs a whopping 1.3 million square feet which is a little more than 23 acres. It is a mind blowing piece, but so is the scourge of AIDS on a big population of the human race. The quilt was split into three for the exhibition; they were displayed in shifts by an amazing team of volunteers. Only seeing it on display could help you understand the magnitude of it all, unpacking and packing it all up at the end of the day took dedication from the volunteers.

The making of the quilt began in 1987 by activist Cleve Jones to highlight the plight of HIV and AIDS. It was first displayed at the National Mall during the march of Lesbians and Gays rights, by then there were only 1920 panels. The quilt grew to 46,000 panels by 2007 and an incredible 49,000 panels this year and growing. Jones invited those who had lost loved ones to join in the project. The quilt will remain on display at the National Mall all summer. Portions of it will be used during the AIDS conference to be held in Washington, DC.

It is rightfully the world’s largest community folk art, what is even more amazing is the names of those who died from HIV/AIDs. For those who are unable to travel to Washington to see the quilt, you will be happy to know that Microsoft has teamed up with the University of Southern California to bring the quilt online. You can actually go online under ‘AIDS Memorial Quilt and view the interactive online version.

I was really touched by this project seeing as many of my country men are affected by this scourge. That aside, the cultural entertainment was colorful and engaging. If you missed it this year, plan on attending next year, it is an annual event.
Smithsonian Folklife Festival
Volunteers unfolding the AIDS Memo…
The AIDS Memorial Quilt
The AIDS Memorial Quilt
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Andy99 Andy99
621 reviews
World Cultures Come to Washington, DC Jul 09, 2011
Every summer since 1967 the Smithsonian Institution has held the outdoor Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall in Washington, DC. It's a great way to experience a wide variety of world cultures and traditions. There is one theme country each year as well as a showcased American state or folk tradition. Recent festivals have featured:

2008: Bhutan and Texas.

2009: Wales and Las Américas: Un Mundo Musical.

2010: México and Asian Pacific Americans.

2011: Columbia and Rhythem & Blues music.

One learns about the culture or tradition through demonstrations of arts and crafts, music performances, dance, and food and drink.

The Smithsonian does an excellent job of bringing the actual practitioners to Washington and creating accurate displays. (Inside the Buddhist temple constructed in 2008, one could think oneself to be in Bhutan!) I don't know how the spectacular Voladores de Tamaletón ceremony in 2010 can be topped!

Music, dance, and, of course, food, round out the experience. Audience participation is always encouraged.

The Folklife Festival take place over two weeks around the Fourth of July. If you visit Washington for the Fourth, don't miss the Festival!

See my Washington, DC, blog entries for July 2008, July 2009, July 2010, and July 2011 for visits to the Folklife Festival and more photos!
Spectacular ceremonies
Smithsonian Folklife Festival bann…
Traditional dress
3 / 3 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
vulindlela says:
That sounds way cool!
Thanks for sharing!
Posted on: Jul 15, 2010
HuBison HuBison
417 reviews
2010 edition Jul 11, 2010
I took my mom when she came down to DC to visit and it was OK. We went on the last day so I'm not sure if we missed more than we would have seen on a earlier day. It seems they pick 2 different countries to really concentrate on and then there's a 3rd tent area about the Smithsonian Institute.

For the 2010 Folklife Festival, they had food, music, dancing, and other cultural tifbits on Asia and Mexico. Cultural food is always good. I was pleased by the Thai dancers and I liked some of the Mexican bands. We went on one of those superhot days, so we had gaterorade and melting water that we had frozen before we left home-otherwise, they are selling water on the Mall for $3! They did have a cooling center that was heavenly.

I really enjoyed the Smithsonian tents with info on astronomy and going green and visitng Panama.

It's a nifty visit to take when you're in DC; its an annual event, you just have to catch it and plan appropriately.
2 / 2 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy

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