The 2008 Festival, as in previous years, brought together exemplary practitioners of diverse traditions from communities across the United States and around the world. The ongoing goal of the Festival is to encourage the vitality of these traditions by presenting them on the National Mall so that tradition-bearers and the public can learn from one another and understand cultural differences in a respectful way.
The 2008 Festival celebrated Bhutan’s approach to life in the twenty-first century, which it calls the pursuit of “Gross National Happiness.” The Bhutanese have chosen a unique path to development, rooted in deep respect for and protection of the kingdom’s cultural and natural resources. The 2008 Festival program coincided with Bhutan’s centennial celebration of the monarchy and implementation of the country’s new democratic constitution. It emphasized the kingdom’s protection of culture, community, and environment and was the largest and most comprehensive living exhibition of Bhutanese culture and traditions ever presented outside of the kingdom. Through craft and cooking demonstrations, dance and musical performances, and interactive discussions, the 2008 Festival explored the linkages between Bhutan’s natural and cultural resources.
On the occasion of NASA’s fiftieth anniversary, the 2008 Festival explored the spirit of innovation, discovery, and service embodied by the agency and its personnel. The program encouraged visitors to participate actively - to ask questions of the roughly one hundred participants who came to Washington from across the United States to represent a cross section of NASA’s 18,000 employees and 40,000 contractors and grantees. NASA: Fifty Years and Beyond showcased the role that the men and women of NASA have played in broadening the horizons of American science and culture, as well as the role that they will continue to play in helping to shape the future by stirring the public imagination.
Texas: A Celebration of Music, Food, and Wine focused on the rich heritage of these cultural traditions from every region of the Lone Star State. The sounds of Texas blues, swing, conjunto, country and western, gospel, and Tejano music were a sonic reminder of the state’s breathtaking diversity. Texas's culinary traditions - from barbeque to kolache (pastry) making, from chicken-fried steak to Vietnamese specialties - made for an eye-opening and mouth-watering demonstration of the state’s regional vastness and cultural range. An exhibit on Texas wine making explored the craft, skills, and terroir of the state's industry.
The 2008 Ralph Rinzler Memorial Concert honored one of Ralph's long-term collaborators, René López, a music aficionado and cultural activist from New York's Puerto Rican community.
The 2008 Festival took place for two five-day weeks (June 25-29 and July 2-6) between Madison Drive and Jefferson Drive and between 9th Street and 14th Street, south of the National Museum of American History and the National Museum of Natural History.