The National Folk Festival Experience
A large-scale, three-day outdoor event presented free to the public, the National Folk Festival celebrates the richness and variety of American culture. It features a broad array of traditional music and dance performances on seven stages, demonstrations, workshops, storytelling, parades, puppetry, dances, a folklife/material culture area with a regional focus, a children’s area, a crafts marketplace and offerings of regional and ethnic foods. It presents authentic folk, ethnic and tribal artists from across the nation, striving to showcase the very finest practitioners. Excellent artists representing local and regional traditions are included in the programming mix, which embraces the heritage and traditions of all Americans, from those whose families have been here for centuries to those of the most recent immigrants.
Audiences are treated to blues, rockabilly, gospel, klezmer, jazz, bluegrass, cowboy, polka, tamburitza, old-time, mariachi, western swing, honky-tonk, hip-hop, rhythm and blues, and zydeco music as well as traditional music and dance from Cajun, Native American, Celtic, Middle Eastern, Caribbean, East Asian, Appalachian, Hispanic, African and Pacific Islander cultures.
Chinese dragon and lion dancers, Mardi Gras Indians, New Orleans brass bands, Puerto Rican bomba y plena ensembles, Italian-American religious processions and a host of other traditional street and celebratory activities are also part of the National’s mix. These forms of public celebration engage festivalgoers with facets of vernacular culture from the heart of communities throughout America.
The festival’s folklife area is devoted exclusively to the traditions of the host region. Material culture exhibits and demonstrations feature the finest local craftspeople and a broad range of other tradition-bearers, exploring subjects ranging from traditional pottery, blacksmithing, quilting, instrument making, boat building and woodcarving to needlework, American Indian beadwork and religious iconography. Participating masters take part in discussions and workshops, creating a deeply educational experience.
Special attention is given to providing engaging and educational performances and hands-on activities for children and youth that share with them the richness and diversity of many cultures. The festival’s artistic diversity is complemented by a variety of local, regional and ethnic food specialties available for sale throughout the festival site. The festival marketplace features handcrafted items made by fine craftspeople from the host state.
The National involves the entire host community, bringing together many diverse groups to work toward a common goal. An estimated 700+ volunteers join with festival organizers, city planners, public works employees, civic and cultural groups, and community leaders to create an event that belongs to everyone.