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  • Seven Festival Activities for the Whole Family

    An archaeological dig at the Areni Cave tent, Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Photo by Stanley Turk, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives

    An archaeological dig at the Areni Cave tent, Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Photo by Stanley Turk, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives

    As usual, the 2018 Folklife Festival features opportunities to witness and take part in beautiful traditions from many different places. This year, our programs focus on Armenia and Catalonia, plus features on Crafts of African Fashion, among others. Although most of our activities are open to participants of all ages, here are a few in particular that the whole family can enjoy.

    When you arrive at the Festival, pick up a free Family Activities Guide at the information booths to find out about daily highlights and a scavenger hunt for kids. Visit our schedule as well to see a full lineup of all the events going on every day.

    1. Explore an archaeological site
    At the Areni Cave tent, you too can engage with history. Dig through the sandbox to discover remnants from another time, including shoes and ceramics. Then, you can learn about the significance of each item under the guidance of a staff member. Download the ARLOOPA app on your smartphone for a special 3D experience inside the cave!

    2. Help knead Catalan bread
    Not only can you watch skilled baker Àngel Zamora produce delicious treats, but you can also give him hand. Visitors are welcomed to knead dough that will be transformed into coca. Getting hungry? The Catalan Café is nearby with sweet and savory snacks, like bunyols (doughnuts) and pa amb tomaquet (tomato toast).

    2018 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
    Behind the scenes in the Shadow Theater.
    Photo by Joshua Davis, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives

    3. Experience the magic of shadow theater
    Armenian shadow play often features a trickster hero and his partner as they go through comic situations. Witness the story unfold and laugh along at our Shadow Theater tent. Each show lasts about ten minutes, starting at forty-five minutes after the hour. 

    4. Get your hands dirty
    Engage with pottery in both the Armenian and Catalan programs. In the Clay and Ceramics tents, visitors of all ages can make their own works of art under the guidance of skilled artisans. After your piece dries, feel free to take it home!

    2018 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
    Children’s workshop in the Marketplace.
    Photo by Daniel Martinez Gonzalez, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives

    5. Create your own art in the Marketplace
    Every day from 11 to 11:45 a.m., the Marketplace hosts kid-friendly, hands-on experiences. Our youngest visitors can try West African dye methods or stamp an African textile pattern. Bonus: the Marketplace is an air-conditioned oasis on a hot day!

    6. Transform trash into art in the Plaça Major
    Every August, a spectacle of ornamentation explodes on the streets of Gràcia, an arts district in Barcelona. You can participate in the festivities right here on the National Mall! Follow the demonstration to turn a recycled plastic bottle into a beautiful flower to join the rest of the street decorations.

    7. Build a little big head
    In the Imaginary Figures on Parade tent,you can view the surreal figuresthat populate festivals and parades in Catalonia. Visitors can even make their own miniature version of the fantastic figures to keep the celebration going all the way home.

    Rachel Barton is a media intern at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. She is a rising senior at Rowan University, double-majoring in English and Writing Arts. She has been participating in events meant for children her whole life and does not intend on stopping anytime soon.


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