Vive la difference!
The annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival is all about celebrating cultural differences. Held for 10 days over the course of 2 weekends in late June and early July, always including July 4, the festival toasts the world, two or three cultures or themes at a time.
In 2016, the Folklife Festival highlights the Basque culture and the Sounds of California. Basque dancers, musicians, cooks, boat-makers, artisans, and storytellers share the unique and innovative culture of their community, which spans northern Spain and southwestern France. The Sounds of California presents nighttime concerts and daytime performances and activities in revealing the musical culture that is emerging from the country’s extremely diverse and most populous state, and what the music says about life in America today.
The festival sprawls across the National Mall between 4th and 7th streets, taking shape in tents, out-in-the-open stages, and creative platforms invented for the occasion. (Over the years, these have included a rice paddy, polka hall, horse racetrack, and camel caravan.) A schedule of events takes place from morning til evening, including arts and crafts workshops and exhibits, cooking demonstrations, music and dance performances, storytelling, fashion shows, games, and just about any activity that expresses the highlighted culture in some way.
The festival usually coincides with the hottest days of the year, or so it always seems. Nearly everything is outside and not air-conditioned, so make sure you’ve got your water bottle with you. The sole inside venue is the Marketplace, inside the Arts and Industries Building, where craftsmen from this year’s and past festivals sell their wares.
Metro: Smithsonian on the Silver, Blue and Orange Lines; National Mall/Jefferson Dr. exit. Or L’Enfant Plaza on the Silver, Blue, Orange, Green, and Yellow Lines; Maryland Ave. and 7th St. exit. Also the DC Circulator.