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1979 Festival of American Folklife

October 3-8, 1979

The 1979 Folklife Festival continued to take community as its theme, as had been announced in 1978. The Festival celebrated the creative genius of many cultural groups - some had been on American soil only for months, others for millenia. The point of the Smithsonian festivals and the museums' displays of diversity struck home to the people who came to the museums and reached out for reaffirmation of identity. People feared the loss of identity in the sense of anomie that came with being a cipher, a numeral, a set of digits, organizers believed; they feared big government, big business, megastates that might rule the world. Coupled with the fear of homogenization was the fear of the loss of one's own soul. One way to strengthen our sense of identity and to demonstrate our essential humanity, the Festival asserted, was the reaffirmation of the differences among us, the persistence of our traditions at the ground roots of life, a countercurrent for survival.

In 1979 the Festival welcomed the newly-arrived ethnic community of Vietnamese, who had brought with them rich folklife traditions. From the West Indies came immigrants who enliven our cities with the folk theatrical spectacle of Carnival. Native Americans from several tribal groups shared their knowledge of ways in which their housing has been adapted to local environmental conditions.The International Year of the Child was celebrated at the Festival in the program book cover and articles, and in the living presentations of children's folklife in the Children's Area, where Lumbee Indian children re-created a Field Day celebration, and several other children's communities enacted Halloween traditions. Occupational communities were represented by D.C. firefighters, taxicab drivers, and stonecarvers from the National Cathedral. Other communities represented, which had formed around particular interests or institutions, were a medicine show, mom-and-pop neighborhood stores, street criers, and CB radio clubs.

As with the two preceding years, the 1979 Festival (October 3-8) was held on a site on the National Mall later to be occupied by the National Museum of African American History and Culture, between 14th and 15th Streets and between Constitution Avenue and Madison Drive. Indoor activities including a symposium focused on folk medicine took place in the National Museum of History and Technology, in the days preceding the outdoor Festival (September 27-30). The 1979 Program Book provided information on each of the programs.

The 1979 Festival was again co-presented by the Smithsonian Institution and National Park Service, with support from the U.S. Department of Energy and the Music Performance Trust Funds. It was organized by the Folklife Program within the Office of American and Folklife Studies.

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