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  • Nine Festival Activities for the Whole Family

    This year’s Folklife Festival is jam-packed with amazing performances and awe-inspiring shows. But if you’re visiting with young ones, what is the best way to keep busy between shows? Here is a list of recommended activities for parents and kids alike to enjoy.

     Visit our schedule as well to see a full lineup of all the events going on every day.

    Soccer on the Mall
    Photo by Daniel Martinez, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives

    1. Get warmed up during Active Mornings
    Held every day from 11 a.m. to noon, our “Active Mornings” sessions are the perfect way to get out and get moving with the whole family. Programs differ from day to day, and offerings include capoeira warm-ups and demonstrations with local and visiting masters, Chinese American 9-man volleyball, and more. Programming changes daily, so you’ll have plenty of options to choose from when it comes to starting your day off right.

    2. Make a circus puppet
    Join Wise Fool New Mexico to make your very own circus puppets! Held in the Puppet-Making tent every day at 1 p.m., this event is ideal for those who love to create. Using a variety of materials, meet other families and bring home your own little bit of the circus. Then take your puppets for a romp around the National Mall during Wise Fool’s 4 p.m. Participatory Puppet Processional.

    Photo by Vivianne Peckham, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives

    3. Try your hands at juggling
    Don’t forget to visit our Juggling tent, next door to Circus Science. Here you can learn how to juggle, or just watch professional jugglers and hear their stories. Juggling is a fun, hands-on activity, although practice definitely makes perfect. You might even spot this reporter trying her hand at it too! Put the juggling balls you make at Circus Science to good use—or purchase a set in the Festival Marketplace—and learn a skill that will thrill your friends and family, and keep kids busy at the same time.

    4. Witness and walk the sawdust carpet
    On July 6 and 7, the Migration Walkway will transform with a beautiful tradition from Central America. Alfombras de aserrín, or sawdust carpets, are typically seen during celebrations such as Easter, Los Viajeros de las Americas will create one using nuts, seeds, and other dyed plant materials on the theme of migration. On July 8, visitors are invited to walk through the artwork, offering it back to the earth, while enjoying dance and music performances. This unique art form is sure to enchant visitors of all ages and ignite curiosity about other cultures.

    Photo by Stephen Kolb, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives

    5. Start clowning around
    Take a walk to Clown Alley to learn the tricks of the trade from professional clowns. Demonstrations are open to children and families of all ages, featuring a rotating cast of performers and groups. One highlight is our “Open Classes,” where these clowns’ antics are sure to have you and your family in stitches while learning about the art of comedy along the way.

    6. Tell your own stories in the Mixing Room
    For your budding reporter, visit Gandhi Brigade Youth Media to learn about their work and even get interviewed about your Festival experiences. The Gandhi Brigade’s mission is to empower and educate young people through multimedia projects that deal with real-world issues and events. Here you can stoke curiosity about the inner workings of news media and spark conversation about the new ideas and experiences you’ve encountered at the Festival.

    Circus School
    Photo by Joe Furgal, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives

    7. Go behind the scenes at the Circus School
    At our Circus School located in the historic Arts and Industries Building, you can watch master classes on various circus skills including acrobatics and juggling, and see students and teachers hard at work honing their skills. In between classes, visitors can learn about the special equipment and ask questions of the students, coaches, and trainers. This is a great place to get behind the scenes and see what it takes to make it in the circus.

    8. Learn about the science of circus  
    Pop by our Circus Science tent for demonstrations and hands-on activities to learn what makes the trapeze artist swing, the juggler juggle, and the wire-walker balance. Activity highlights include Lorenzo and His Teeterboard, in which participants help to construct a balancing act circus prop, How to Make Juggling Balls, and so much more! Here you can also pick up a list of Festival highlights specifically for children.

    Ralph Rinzler Stage
    Photo by Daniel Martinez, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives

    9. Top it off with evening dance parties
    What better way to round out a wonderful day at the Festival than by taking in a concert? Upcoming evening dance parties on the Ralph Rinzler Stage feature artists Mick Moloney and Billy McComiskey with the Green Fields of America on July 6, and Artemio Posadas and Jarana Beat on July 8. These concerts are ideally suited to visitors of all ages and bedtimes since they begin at 5:30 and end by 7:30. Expand your children’s musical palates and your own as you dance the evening away!

    Julia Berley is an intern at the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. She is a rising junior at Emory College of Emory University, double majoring in history and psychology.

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