Smithsonian Folklife Festival Cut to 2 Days, Partially Due to Government Shutdown

The cultural celebration and fair typically runs June 29-30

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The Smithsonian Folklife Festival will be celebrated June 29-30 on the National Mall, offering a dramatically reduced slate of programming after planning was hampered by the government shutdown.

The cultural celebration and fair typically runs over 10 days, but planners cut the festival short in 2019. Sabrina Motley, the festival's director, said that outside funding was delayed and planning time was cut short when federal workers were furloughed for 35 days over the winter.

The usual sprawling schedule of performances, discussions, cooking demos, dances and expert talks has been truncated and the festival marketplace has been canceled. This year, festivalgoers can enjoy some family-friendly workshops alongside two concerts, one headlined by rapper Goldlink and the other honoring Pete Seeger.

“Changing this year’s scope and scale enabled us to respond to a shortened production window and to continue our long-standing tradition of cultural exchange, exploration and engagement on the National Mall,” Motley said.

Over its more than 50-year history, several Folklife Festivals only lasted one weekend or five days, Motley says. But it appears that the two-day schedule is a first.

This year's theme is centered around the power of music, and both Saturday and Sunday will feature concerts near the Smithsonian Metro stop that are free and open to the public.

Grammy-nominated rapper Goldlink and rapper, producer and spoken-word artists Ruby Ibarra are set to perform on Saturday.

Sunday's offers family-friendly workshops and activities alongside the main program,  "A Smithsonian Folkways Family Concert Honoring the Life and Legacy of Pete Seeger," featuring Sonia De Los Santos, The Bright Siders, Dan Zanes + Claudia Eliaza and Elizabeth Mitchell. 

Organizers say food and beverage will be sold, but the festival marketplace offering was canceled.

In 2020, the event will go back to its 10-day schedule, highlighting cultures in Brazil, Benin, the Baltics, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, Motley says.

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