The hotel is quiet for a moment—the lobby has emptied except for a few porters and members of the participant staff, who all look a bit bewildered, though relieved, by the rare moment of peace. Everyone is waiting with baited breath for the next group of participants, who have been gradually arriving from the airports and train stations over the past few days. The lull in activity never lasts for long, though, and this is no exception. All of a sudden people pour in through the rotating doors, fresh off of the plane and looking exhausted from a long day of travel but excited to have finally arrived. The hubbub begins again, and the participant staff gets to work, welcoming the most recent arrivals and handing out room keys and festival information.
Everyone seems to be feeling a bit more prepared after braving the first week of the Festival, and there is a fine art to navigating one’s way through the chaos of the moment that everyone on Participant Staff has clearly mastered. During the two down days before the second week of the festival begins, the National Mall has quieted down, but the hotel where the participants are staying is constantly buzzing with activity.
As an intern for Participant Staff, I have enjoyed every minute of my time at the hotel, both during the Festival and on the down days. Often, the first people that the arriving participants meet off the plane are members of the Participant Staff, and it is so much fun to see participants relaxing at the hotel after a long week of performing on the Mall, or connecting on the phone with family and friends back home. During the festival’s down days when the activity on the Mall has slowed down, the action at the hotel continues on without ceasing as everyone works together to ensure that the second week of the festival will be just as much fun as the first.
Lucy is an intern at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. She recently graduated from Colorado University Boulder, where she studied anthropology.