News Releases

Smithsonian Folklife Festival Celebrates 50th Anniversary With Stories of the American Experience

April 14, 2017

To celebrate its 50th anniversary, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival will host a series of programs exploring American identity and creativity. “Circus Arts” will take visitors behind the scenes to explore the cultural and artistic expressions of the ever-evolving circus, and “On the Move” will examine migration and cultural identity from an intergenerational perspective.

Since its inception in 1967, the Festival has become a national and international model of a research-based presentation of contemporary, living cultural traditions. Over the years, it has brought more than 2,300 musicians, artists, performers, craftspeople, workers, cooks, storytellers and others from all 50 states and 100 countries to the National Mall to demonstrate the skills, knowledge and aesthetics that embody the creative vitality of community-based traditions.

Together, “Circus Arts” and “On the Move” expand on the work that the Festival has done for 50 years—exploring timeless questions of identity, representation and community engagement—with a focus on the rich stories and continuing traditions that make America the diverse landscape it is today.

The Festival will be held Thursday, June 29, through Tuesday, July 4, and Thursday, July 6, through Sunday, July 9, on the National Mall between Seventh and 12th streets. Admission is free. Festival hours are from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, with evening performances beginning at 7 p.m.  The Festival is co-sponsored by the National Park Service.

“Visitors to this year’s Festival will encounter both story and spectacle,” said Festival Director Sabrina Lynn Motley. “For a half-century, we have had the good fortune to work with individuals and communities to share their knowledge and skills with people from all walks of life. I am endlessly impressed by and appreciative of the generosity of our participants who spend 10 days with us on the National Mall.”  

Special events associated with the “Circus Arts” program will include intimate workshops, full-scale performances and an interactive circus school. There are no live exotic animals in the “Circus Arts” program. As part of “On the Move,” visitors will experience live performances and discussion stages on the themes of migration, identity, creativity and community. Visitors will also be invited to participate in a 50th anniversary reunion weekend celebration, bringing together past staff, volunteers, participants and visitors to reflect on the transformative power of the Festival. As always, visitors will have the opportunity to support the work of artisans at the Festival Marketplace and enjoy food from Festival concessions.

About the Festival

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival, inaugurated in 1967, honors contemporary living cultural traditions and celebrates those who practice and sustain them. Produced annually by the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in partnership with the National Park Service, the Festival has featured participants from all 50 states and more than 100 countries. Follow the Festival on FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.

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SI-188-2017

Media only  
Angelica Aboulhosn 
(202) 633-0644 
aboulhosna@si.edu       

Festival goers sitting on blankets on the Mall
Related photos: 

50th Anniversary

crowd sitting on the mall at sunset

Francisco Guerra

Visitors at the 2015 Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

Photo by Francisco Guerra, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, Smithsonian Institution



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