Food, Fun and Funk: Smithsonian Folklife Festival Celebrates Its 46th Year!

I have attended the Smithsonian Folklife Festival every year since moving to the DC area. And I am a big fan of this event on the National Mall that features art, dance, food, storytelling and other exhibits that highlight various American and international cultures. So when I was asked to supply huge amounts of my soaps and such for sale at the Folklife Marketplace, I was thrilled!

At the end of last week, I dropped off a rented SUV-full of boxes of products for the Marketplace volunteers to do their magic. And yesterday a friend called to tell me that my products were prominently displayed in the Marketplace tent, so I headed down to take some photos. When I entered the Marketplace, I found that the first three tables were filled with my soaps, men’s products, and Herban Crafts kits!

And the Marketplace is just one of the many features of the Festival. This year’s themes are Campus and Community, Citified, and Creativity and Crisis. I took some photos while I was there, and look forward to really exploring the exhibits when I have more time.

The Festival kicked off last night with a free concert on the Mall featuring George Clinton and other funk legends. The was the first of many free concerts being offered during the course of the Festival.

Citified celebrates the art, music, food and community of the area of DC that sits east of the Anacostia river. As the Folklife Festival website explains, “Citified alludes to the fact that many African American residents living east of the Anacostia River have parents or grandparents who migrated from the rural South, particularly North and South Carolina, and who continue to maintain connections with their southern (although often no longer rural) heritage.”

image copyright Washington Post

Campus and Community features exhibits from several land grant colleges and the USDA, both of which are celebrating their 150th anniversary this year. Several of the colleges have exhibits focusing on the theme of sustainability, such as UC Davis’ exhibit on the ubiquitous problem of plastic bags and the University of Tennessee’s Solar House.

And Creativity and Crisis features the AIDS Quilt, now celebrating its 25th anniversary. In 1987, The NAMES Project Foundation offered hands-on quilt panel-making sessions that allowed individuals and communities to commemorate loved ones, find support and engage in dialogues about how to address the crisis. Today, The Quilt contains nearly 48,000 panels, a portion of which are on display on the Mall.

For those visitors who want to have a hand in adding to The Quilt, participants of all ages will have the opportunity to learn quilting techniques, make panels, and share stories from their own experiences.

The Festival is being held from June 27–July 1 and July 4–8, and is open from 11:00am to 5:30pm.

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Showing Some Love to the National Parks

2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the gift of the blossoming cherry trees to Washington, DC from the Mayor of Tokyo, Japan. This year the Cherry Blossom Festival, hosted by the National Park Service, runs from March 20 to April 27, with the Sakura Matsuri (Cherry Blossom Street Festival), to be held today, April 14.

Three Fridays ago, I spent most of the afternoon at the Tidal Basin admiring the cherry blossoms at their peak along with thousands of other people from around the world who were taking advantage of the perfect weather.

On my way to the Tidal Basin, I saw several bikers and runners on the path that runs alongside the George Washington Parkway (also run by the National Park Service), which is actually pretty gorgeous as far as parkways go, with several nice spots where you can picnic among the tress along with a close-up view of the Potomac River.

Right next to the Tidal Basin sits our National Mall, which isn’t looking quite as pretty. The National Mall’s last renovation was 30 years ago, after the country’s bicentennial in 1976. Between the reduced Park Service budgets, which haven’t allowed for adequate upkeep, and the over 25 million annual visitors (more than Yosemite, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon combined!), the Mall is in pretty sad condition.

Our national parks are an incredible resource, and I highly recommend visiting them. Being outdoors has so many benefits for the body, mind and spirit. Even if you don’t have a lot of vacation time, you can search the National Park Services’ website. to find a National Park near you that can be visited in just one day or afternoon.

Even if you don’t have time to visit them right now, there are a few ways you can help support the health and vitality of our National Parks. First, the Eco Etsy team is holding their Annual Handmade for Earth Day Auction. All proceeds from the year’s auction go to support the National Park Service. I highly recommend you check out the beautiful eco-friendly items being auctioned off for this good cause.

A second way you can help is by supporting The Trust for the National Mall, the official nonprofit partner of the National Park Service, which is dedicated to “restoring and improving the National Mall while providing new educational and volunteer activities to connect visitors to the Mall’s rich history.”

You can also join the L’Enfant Society whose members support the Trust for the National Mall in its mission “to raise funds to restore the National Mall and build awareness for the current state of the country’s most visited national park.” You can download a PDF of the L’Enfant Society Membership Brochure. Another fun way to support the park is by attending the L’Enfant Society’s 4th Annual Ball on the Mall will be held on Saturday, May 5, 2012!