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1980 Festival of American Folklife

October 8-13, 1980

The 1980 Festival was the third to use "community" as its over-arching theme, and the last to be held in October. As with recent Festivals, it 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. It was also the first to be organized by the newlyestablished Office of Folklife Programs (1980-1992), successor to the former Folklife Program of the Office of American and Folklife Studies (1977-1980). The indoor programming in several museums that had characterized the 1977-1979 Festivals was discontinued and all activities were held outdoors.

When families and community groups gather to celebrate or to mourn, Festival Director Ralph Rinzler observed in the program book, they depend on traditional flavors, sounds, dances, and prayers to reinforce their sense of belonging, their group strength and cultural identity. At the annual Folklife Festival, the Smithsonian acknowledged the power of these traditions, which recall the value that Americans continue to place on being members of groups - familial, occupational, ethnic, regional, and religious. Festival organizers considered this recognition a step in the process of cultural conservation, in the belief that cultural variety, on a national and on a global scale, makes life itself more rewarding. Community and identity thus served as the twin poles around which Festival programs were organized.

The 1980 Festival (October 8-13) included a Caribbean Carnival with steel band and calypso competitions; Finnish Americans from northern Minnesota demonstrating a traditional "whip-sled" for children and such crafts as making Christmas tree ornaments from wood shavings; Southern carpenters building a traditional "dog trot" house; Southeast Asians demonstrating weaving, embroidery, stone carving, calligraphy; among others. The Festival asserted that rootedness is a tangible part of the fascination with history, our own or our country's or that of some distant place. This was seen as a part of life that everyone should value, and so the Festival not only celebrated customs and ways of doing things, but evoked the pride of being someone from somewhere. The 1980 Program Book provided information on each of the programs.

The 1980 Festival was again co-presented by the Smithsonian Institution and National Park Service, with support from the U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Music Performance Trust Funds. It was organized by the Office of Folklife Programs.

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