Old Ways in the New World was launched at the 1973 Festival as a cooperative, comparative presentation prepared and mounted by a joint effort involving the Smithsonian and the Government of Yugoslavia. Musicians, singers and dancers from Serbia and Croatia joined with their cultural descendants in America for a five-day celebration of the bechar tamburashi tradition. A series of concerts comparing American Anglo-Scots-Irish material with the English, Scots and Irish forms was intended as a preview of future Festivals.
Like the other Festival programs, Old Ways was concerned with the presentation of elements of group identity. Here the point of focus was the cultural traditions that newcomers - early and late, forced and willing - brought to the United States and creatively used in maintaining their unique sense of community. These traditions serve to reinforce, reassure and stabilize people struggling to survive in an unaccustomed environment.
As the Smithsonian began planning a multi-month Bicentennial Festival of American Folklife projected for 1976, it established relationships with foreign governments to initiate joint research programs, with U.S. scholars working abroad and visiting specialists coming to the U.S. to map and compare traditions as they exist in the mother country and here. The resources of ethnographic museums, folklore institutes, universities and independent scholars were mobilized to approach this material with fresh perspectives and techniques.
Andrew Oerke was Program Coordinator for the Old Ways in the New World program, with Carla Borden as Field Reseach Coordinator and Martin Koenig and Ethel Raim-Zinser serving as Program Directors for Slavic and Balkan Cultures. Major sponsors for the Old Ways program included the Government of Yugoslavia, the Croatian Fraternal Union, and the Serb National Federation. Subsequent to their participation in the Festival, Yugoslav participants toured to perform in U.S. cities with Serbian and Croation populations; those Touring Performances were coordinated by Mark Mason.