Every year Since 1967, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival has laid a smorgasbord of world cultures along the National Mall. This year, there’s just one course: “Peru: Pachamama,” a celebration of the country’s history, biodiversity and culture. As a result, the festival, which started Wednesday, is bringing in about 80 fewer artists than usual and occupying just one block of Mall space — between Third and Fourth streets SW — instead of the usual five.
Why the slimdown? Because the area usually occupied by Folklife Festival is undergoing turf restoration, festival director Sabrina Motley says.
“Our traditional home on the Mall was not available, so we [decided to] partner with our colleagues at the National Museum of the American Indian, and use the space in front,” she says. “It will be a more intimate place. It’ll feel more like a village.”
It’ll be a bustling village. The festival expects to attract its usual 1 million-plus visitors, so outdoor spaces will probably be more crowded than usual. However, the NMAI partnership should help ease the congestion, Motley says.
In conjunction with the festival, the American Indian museum has a new exhibit, “The Great Inka Road: Engineering an Empire.” The museum also hosts the festival’s marketplace, 4,000 square feet of authentic crafts from Peru.
Out on the Mall, some 150 culture-bearers will demonstrate Peru’s traditional dance, music and visual arts, Motley says. Specially trained horses will perform the country’s national dance, fisherman will explain how to make stingray jerky and a team of engineers will make a traditional suspension bridge out of braided grass. There will also be evening performances, to which people are encouraged to bring blankets and picnics. (New National Park Service regulations didn’t allow the festival to set up its usual large tents and chairs for daytime performances.)
“I think that people will be surprised as they always are when they come to the festival,” Motley says. “They will not miss the festival experience.”
National Mall between Third and Fourth streets SW; free, through Sunday and July 1-5.