News Releases

Smithsonian Institution Presents 43rd Annual Folklife Festival

June 8, 2009

Visitors to the 43rd annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival can learn about oral traditions in African American culture, explore music and its meaning in Latino culture and experience the vibrant culture of Wales.

The Festival will be held Wednesday, June 24, through Sunday, June 28, and Wednesday, July 1, through Sunday, July 5, outdoors on the National Mall between Seventh and 14th streets. Admission is free. Festival hours are from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. each day, with special evening events such as concerts and dance parties beginning at 5:30 p.m. The Festival is co-sponsored by the National Park Service.

“Giving Voice: The Power of Words in African American Culture”
“Giving Voice: The Power of Words in African American Culture” will explore and celebrate the role African American oral traditions have played in the shaping of American culture. The program, which will feature poetry, storytelling, comedy, radio, theater, and children’s and youth culture, is presented in partnership with the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is scheduled to open on the National Mall in 2015.

Performance venues will include re-creations of a barbershop, a beauty shop, a porch stoop and a radio station. The program also will feature a “hush harbor,” which will provide visitors with a quiet place to read about the traditions presented at the Festival and contemplate their visit. “Hush harbor” was the name given to a place where enslaved African Americans would go to talk without surveillance.

Program participants will include poets Sonia Sanchez and Toni Blackman, storytellers Charlotte Blake-Alston and Valerie Tutson, comedians James Hannah and Royale Watkins, talk show host Lorne Cress-Love of WPFW-FM and thespians Holly Bass and Roger Guenveur Smith. Participants in the children’s and youth culture section of the program will include Grammy-winning singer-storyteller Ella Jenkins and the Asante Children’s Theatre. 

“Las Américas: Un mundo musical/The Americas: A Musical World”
“Las Américas: Un mundo musical/The Americas: A Musical World” is the fourth and final program in the “Nuestra Música: Music in Latino Culture” series, an initiative that explores and presents the diverse, evolving and expanding universe of Latino music.

The program will feature music from Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Paraguay, the United States and the Dominican Republic. The core of the artists will be from the Tradiciones/Traditions series of recordings published by Smithsonian Folkways.

Groups performing include Los Camperos de Valles, a trio of musicians from the Mexican cattle-herding region known as La Huasteca who play in the “son huasteco” style; Grupo Cimarrón, which performs “joropo” music, heard in the plains region of Colombia; Maestros del Joropo Oriental, which performs regional “joropo” music from the eastern portion of the Venezuela; La India Canela, and her ensemble from the Cibao region of the Dominican Republic will perform “merengue típico”; Marcelo Rojas, who specializes in Paraguay’s signature music, the “polca paraguaya”; and the Los Angeles-based Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano, which has been performing for nearly 50 years and continues to be a major force in mariachi music in the United States.

“Wales Smithsonian Cymru”
“Wales Smithsonian Cymru” will give Festival visitors the opportunity to experience the vibrant culture of Wales, a small, dynamic country with an ancient history, an industrial past and a commitment to a sustainable future. (“Cymru,” pronounced KUM-ree, is the Welsh word for Wales.)

Through live demonstrations, narrative sessions, a variety of hands-on activities, and dance and musical performances, the program will explore Wales’ rich heritage. The program will feature more than 100 participants showcasing the country’s mission of connecting its past and present to inform a responsible future.

Participants will include fiddlers, harpists and pipers; book conservators; textile designers and weavers; basket makers; woodcarvers; and potters. In addition, there will be demonstrations of genealogical research, instrument making and clog making. Welsh cooks will teach visitors about bread making, bake-stone cooking and smoking fish.

Merchandise produced by Festival artisans and a selection of related books and Smithsonian Folkways recordings will be available for purchase at the Festival Marketplace, located in front of the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art.

Meals, snacks and beverages representing the three programs will be sold at concession stands.

Large-print and CD versions of the daily schedule and a CD version of the program book will be available at information kiosks and the Volunteer tent. Volunteers will be on call to assist wheelchair users. Music stages will have audio loops to assist hard-of-hearing visitors. Service animals are welcome. American Sign Language interpreters will be available on site; the Festival program book will indicate the interpreted presentations.

About the Festival
The Smithsonian Folklife Festival, inaugurated in 1967, celebrates folk culture with people from across the United States and around the world. The Festival typically includes daily programs of music, song and dance, crafts, occupational skills and cooking demonstrations, storytelling, workshops and narrative sessions for discussing cultural issues. It attracts approximately 1 million visitors a year. The Festival is a research-based production of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival is supported by federally appropriated funds; Smithsonian trust funds; contributions from governments, businesses, foundations and individuals; in-kind assistance; and food, recording and craft sales. General support for this year’s Festival comes from the Music Performance Fund, with in-kind support provided by WAMU-88.5 FM and

Follow the Festival on Facebook! Festival fans also can keep up with each day’s events though through blogs and webcasts. Visit the Festival Web site at

For general Smithsonian information, call (202) 633-1000 (voice) or (202) 633-5285 (TTY).

# # #


Media Only
Becky Haberacker
(202) 633-5183

Amy Kehs
(202) 309-5543