The 1987 Festival took place for two five-day weeks (June 24-28 and July 1-5) between Madison Drive and Jefferson Drive and between 10th Street and 14th Street, south of the National Museum of American History and the National Museum of Natural History. Held on parkland among many of the nation's most treasured memorials and institutions, the Festival explored the city beyond Washington's federal buildings. Visitors learned of its diverse, vibrant and evolving musical traditions - a hometown to Americans of many cultures. In any culture language is a primary source of unity and pride. Through the 1987 Festival visitors had the opportunity to learn about the valued role of language in some of America's linguistic communities. Culture and language have played an important role in shaping the character of each state in the union. In this, Michigan's sesquicentennial celebration year, traditional craftspeople, musicians, cooks, woodworkers, boatmen, and others shared with Festival-goers the particular history and culture of their state.
The 1987 Program Book included schedules and participant lists for each program; the Program Book essays provided a larger context for the Festival presentations, without being limited to traditions actually presented at the 1987 Festival.
The Festival was co-presented by the Smithsonian Institution and National Park Service and organized by the Office of Folklife Programs.