The 17th annual Festival of American Folklife, scheduled to be held on the Mall June 23 through 27 and June 30 through July 4, will focus on the cultural traditions of New Jersey and France. The free outdoor event, which takes place under temporary tents and stages set up on National Park Service land between the American History and Natural History museums, attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. It could be the highest honor ever accorded New Jersey.
For the past six months, Smithsonian fieldworkers have been traveling through the Garden State seeking out the representative culture of more than 100 ethnic groups and even more industries there. The rural and urban character of the state will be revealed in music, crafts, food and folklore from occupations as diverse as oyster harvesting and computer manufacturing.
For the foreign contingent at the festival, more than two dozen French participants will join with an equal number of French-Americans, allowing visitors to compare les traditions and see how they've been adapted in the New World.
A third component of the festival will honor the 200th anniversary of manned flight by focusing on the occupational styles of such aviation workers as pilots, maintenance people and flight attendants. As always, participants will not only demonstrate their skills but also will be available to talk to Mall visitors.
In its 16 years, the Folklife Festival has presented more than 10,000 craftspeople, musicians and dancers while attracting more than 13 million visitors. This year's festival is partly funded by the government of France and the state of New Jersey.