June 24-July 5, 1981
In 1981, the fifteenth annual Festival of American Folklife returned to the summer, resuming the schedule of two five-day weeks that had characterized Festivals in the 1973-1975 era. The 1981 Festival would be the last 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.
Preparations for the Festival's return to summer involved going back to many old friends in mid-winter and asking them if they would make one or two kiln-loads of pottery in mid-spring for the coming Festival. The Folklife Program asked others, "Can you come to Washington for two weeks around the Fourth of July?" In keeping with the International Year of Disabled Persons, Festival organizers asked still others, 'Will you help us with a special program on the folklore of Deaf people?" The Smithsonian encountered approval at almost every turn. A return to summer was greeted with enthusiasm as was the combination of old themes with some new ones. The lengthened two-week format was appealing, and Fourth of ]uly weekend in the Nation's Capital sounded just fine, too.
The Smithsonian also turned to the Folk Arts Program of the National Endowment for the Arts to help out because the return to summer involved producing two Folklife Festivals in less than one year, and time for fieldwork was limited. The result was a series of daytime programs and evening concerts that drew on five years of intensive work on the part of the Arts Endowment in supporting folk arts performance and documentation.
The 1981 Program Book provided information on each of the programs.
The 1981 Festival was again co-presented by the Smithsonian Institution and National Park Service, with support from the U.S. Department of Energy and Music Performance Trust Funds. It was organized by the Office of Folklife Programs.