Skip to main content
  • Day One: Top Ten Photos

    At the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, we’re used to all sorts of wild weather: extreme heat, sudden thunderstorms, and even a derecho. But this may be the first year since 1967 that our outdoor event was impacted by wildfire smoke, blowing south from Canada and turning D.C. skies hazy throughout the day.

    As a result, we opened today without a formal opening ceremony, although elements of the service will be incorporated throughout the next two weeks. All our participants were eager to finally gather on the National Mall, but some opted to shelter indoors. Nevertheless, enthusiastic crowds convened to watch bluegrass at the Pickin’ Parlor, prepare Hawaiian taro in Kitchen Theology, and enjoy An Evening with Ozarks Women on the Rinzler Stage.

    The air quality is expected to improve over the next few days, so make your weekend plans on the National Mall. And check back here on the Festival Blog as we share our favorite daily photos by our talented documentation team and highlights for the next day!

    In the foreground, large block cutout letters reading #2023FOLKLIFE, under a banner with the Smithsonian sun logo. In the background, the Smithsonian Castle and Washington Monument.
    Under a gray haze, the fifty-sixth Folklife Festival opened on the National Mall.
    Photo by Sonya Pencheva, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives
    Around a table outdoors, a woman with bare, tattooed arms laughs as she handles wooden bowls. Others seated around the table hold kernels of corn.
    Chef Elena Terry hosted the Festival’s first foodways workshop, allowing registered visitors to participate in hands-on food preparation. Today’s topic: corn!
    Photo by Sonya Pencheva, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives
    On a kitchen demonstration stage, a woman in red blouse and apron listens as someone in the audience asks a question. Above the chef, a mirror shows her kitchen counter and a pot of food on the stove.
    Arkansas Outdoors and Cooking on the Wild Side host Phyllis Speer explains different ways to use a Dutch oven outdoors.
    Photo by Ronald Villasante, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives
    A man in white button-down shirt and white cowboy hat, both adorned with pink flowers, holds up a carved wooden face mask with red mouth and beige hair on the brow and chin.
    Felipe Molina explained the significance of the pascola, or old man of the festival, masks to the Yoeme people.
    Photo by Sonya Pencheva, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives
    A person peers into a white tent, dark inside, with Tibetan prayer flags and a sign that reads BUDDHIST MANDALA.
    Inside the Buddhist Mandala tent, Venerable Lama Losang Samten and Soo Kyong Kim begin work on a new artwork.
    Photo by Julie Byrne, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives
    Two people look at a tablet screen, showing an augmented-reality view of the National Mall, with a digital camel sitting to the side.
    Visitors threaded strands of yarn across different personal attributes to create a tapestry of identities in the Family History tent.
    Photo by Grace Bowie, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives
    People crowd into a tent festooned with flower garlands and textiles with floral and elephant designs. Everyone is focused on someone at the back of tent, except for a man in orange-lensed glasses who peers directly at the camera.
    Priests Yagneswaran Ganapathyraman and Vanamoorthy Achari rang bells throughout the day to care for Ganesh, the elephant-headed Hindu god of learning.
    Photo by Sonya Pencheva, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives
    A crowd watches a film on an outdoor screen, showing a young girl and a white and black falcon. Captioning on the screen reads ‘I will take you with me to hunt.’
    Kalyn Fay sang original songs about the beauty of the Oklahoma Ozarks, yearning for home, and Cherokee identity with cellist Matt Magerkurth.
    Photo by Ronald Villasante, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives
    A couple dances on an outdoor dance floor, with the U.S. Capitol Building barely visible through smoky haze in the distance.
    Visitors got their groove on amid the music of the Ozark Women Legacies session.
    Photo by Sonya Pencheva, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives
    Two women perform on stage, playing upright bass and fiddle.
    Melissa Carper (left) and her partner Rebecca Patek closed the evening concert highlighting women of the Ozarks. In the finale, they were joined on stage by Marideth Sisco, Pam Setser, and Cindy Woolf.
    Photo by Phillip R. Lee, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives

    On Friday, June 30, take A Master Class on Being Human, learn from Women Leaders in Plant Knowledge, hear about the peculiarities of Mapping the Ozarks, get the recipe for Sweet Blintzes with Fresh Cheese, and so much more.

    In the evening, raise your spirits with the Rinzler Stage concert, Come Let Us Sing: Gospel Music Legacies. The lineup features pedal-steel guitarist Fran “Lady Strings” Grace, the Kingdom Fellowship AME Church Choir, and recent NEA National Heritage Fellowship award-winners the Legendary Ingramettes. Between sets, catch the big-screen premiere of a short documentary on gospel singer and teacher Shelley Ensor, produced by the Maryland State Arts Council with Wide Angle Youth Media.

    Find the full schedule and all livestream events, and we hope to see you soon!

    Elisa Hough is the editor at the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, and Daniel Zhang is a media intern for the Folklife Festival.

  • Support the Folklife Festival, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, sustainability projects, educational outreach, and more.