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Folklore in Your Community

The Folklore in Your Community featured several presentations based in communities of the Washington, D.C. area.

Vietnamese Americans For refugees, community is an immediate concern. Vietnamese were the newest wave of refugees to American shores, plucked from their families and communities very suddenly with the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. Cultural change in Vietnamese American communities was rapid; in some families the grandparents spoke little English in 1979 and the grandchildren spoke little Vietnamese. Nonetheless, the traditional pattern persisted of three generations of an extended family living and working together. In Vietnamese terms, a family consists of passing on responsibility and gratitude from generation to generation. Arriving with fragments of their families and communities, the Vietnamese in Washington, D.C., had by 1979 vigorously woven a network of community activities through neighborhood grocery stores, restaurants, Buddhist temples, Catholic organizations, a bistro, Vietnamese language schools, senior citizens' groups, and newspapers.

D.C. Fire Fighters Since the first horse-drawn fire engines clanged down a city street, fire fighting has been an urban service occupation that continued to generate a feeling of romance and respect. Yet beyond the excitement and pride felt by those who advance the hose lines, make the rescues or throw the ladders, there are a variety of techniques, customs, gestures, and stories that form the work culture passed from one generation of fire fighters to the next. Fire fighting is dangerous and filled with sharp contrasts. Danger must be anticipated; life or death situations require all the knowledge and skill an individual can muster. A fire fighter prepares for this every day through training, experience, and the collective knowledge of past generations of fire fighters communicated through occupational folklore, represented at the Festival by workshops demonstrating the skills and lore of District of Columbia fire fighters.

CB Community Viewed broadly, the CB community included anyone who had and used a CB (Citizen's Band) radio. But for many CBers in the D. C. area, two way radio was more than an occasional convenience to help drivers. It formed the basis of an ongoing and richly-interactive community. CB people met and socialized over the radio and at CB events; they created informal networks and organized special clubs, such as the Legal CB Operators of America who helped prepare this year's CB presentation for the Folklife Festival. CB aficionados invited Festival visitors to learn their special jargon and to eavesdrop on the life of their community.

Street Criers and Corner Stores The places where cultures meet to do business with one another produce some of our most vital folk expressions. At markets where Italians sell to Jews, where blacks sell to Chinese; in streets where itinerant peddlers make their neighborhood stops, vendors combine talent, tradition, and business sense to sell their goods. Two programs focused on this domain: one looked at neighborhood and corner stores and the role they played for their proprietors, neighbors, and customers, and the other looked at the verbal arts of vendors and sellers - the cries and pitches of fish vendors, fruit peddlers, and others who used their skills to attract customers and to close a deal.

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