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Regional America

The Regional America program at the 1974 Festival continued the tradition of featuring the folklife of one State - in this case, Mississippi. In the six months leading up to the Festival, Smithsonian field researchers traveled 15,000 miles through 82 counties in the State. Their mission was to locate and identify traditional music, dance, craft skills, culinary arts and story-telling. They sought individuals whose skills were transmitted by families and friends in their home communities, people who were not formally trained, but who assimilated the culture of their families and neighbors since infancy. In addition to a Fiddlers' Convention and a diversity of musical performances from African American and white Mississippians, including a group of Lebanese descent, activities were organized around three themes: cotton, cattle and timber. Some 65 musicians and more than 50 craftspeople took part in the Mississippi program between July 3 and July 7, 1974.

A quarter-acre of cotton, under cultivation since mid-April 1974 by the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, grew on the Festival grounds. Visitors were invited to the related exhibits of classing, grading, ginning, carding, and spinning from plant to finished product. Several breeds of cattle were stabled on the Mall, representing an industry of increasing cultural significance. A calfcutting demonstration with quarter horses, cattle shows and related crafts was part of the presentation. The timber exhibit demonstrated precision felling of trees, team-work on a hand-powered cross-cut saw, and workshops on timber-lore and tall tales.

The Regional America program was coordinated by Peggy Martin. Mississippi's participation was coordinated by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History under the direction of Elbert R. Hilliard and Byrle A. Kynerd. The Mississippi Agriculture and Industrial Board, Mississippi Authority for Educational Television, the State Department of Agriculture and Commerce, and the Mississippi Arts Commission assisted in the presentation, which was endorsed by the Mississippi American Revolutionary Bicentennial Commission. Regional America continued to be a major program through the Bicentennial Festival in 1976.

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