United States

Smithsonian Folklife Festival Kicks Off Thursday Under the Big Top

The circus is in town for the festival's 50th anniversary

Come one, come all to the 50th annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival!

The festival kicked off Thursday, and this year, it has two themes: the circus and migration across generations.

Pick up the meaning behind "aba-daba" and "ballyhoo," sharpen your juggling skills and fly through the air like a trapeze artist with circus classes, performances and craft activities at the circus-themed part of the festival. Explore how migration transforms American neighborhoods and learn how to build inclusive communities at musical demonstrations, screen printing activities and discussions. 

Here's everything you need to know if you go.

What is the Smithsonian Folklife Festival?

The festival is a free annual exhibition celebrating the culture of various states, countries, regions and cultures. In its 50th year, the festival will feature daily performances and craft activities hosted by the Smithsonian and co-sponsored by the National Park Service.

This year's event has two themes: circus arts and On The Move, a program centering around migration to and within the U.S.

When and Where Is the Smithsonian Folklife Festival?

The first round of the festival runs from June 29 to July 4 and picks up again July 6 to 9. It'll be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with evening activities beginning at 5:30 and circus performances some nights at 7 p.m. For a full schedule of the festival’s events, go here.

Most events will be outdoors on the National Mall between 7th and 12th streets. Shopping, a circus school and performances will be housed inside the Arts and Industries building. Here's a map of each of the tents.

How Do I Get There?

If you're driving, parking around the National Mall will be limited. The festival is teaming up with Parking Panda, so you can reserve parking ahead of time online.

If you're taking public transportation, Smithsonian is the closest metro station, with the L’Enfant Plaza, National Archives and Federal Triangle stations within a half-mile.

Information on festival accessibility is available here.

What Should I Bring?

Dress for the heat and pack an umbrella. Storm Team4's Chuck Bell is predicting temperatures in the low 90s, with potential afternoon storms Saturday.

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