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Smithsonian Folklife Festival 2011

July 4, 2011

It’s the most wonderful time of the year — festival season in Washington! Every year, summer seems to officially kick off with the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. While the festival seems to feature less interesting cultures every year — this year’s featured cultures are Colombia, Rhythm and Blues, and the Peace Corps — it’s always a fun way to spend an afternoon. (See my 2008 and 2010 Folklife Festival recaps.)

Peace Corps took an interesting approach by featuring Peace Corps countries, not just the program itself. Artisans, craftspeople, guides and cooks from various regions of Europe, Asia, Africa and South and Central America were on-hand to give demonstrations and share their culture.

Whether you’re a traveler or a homebody, the festival is a chance to explore off-the-beaten-path cultures and meet people who wouldn’t normally enter your everyday life. Cooking demonstrations showed off cuisines I’ve never even thought about — Georgian cooking, anyone? (The eastern European country, not the home state of Paula Deen.)

Of course, eating food is much better than watching it cook. I had high hopes for some good West African cuisine.

Bissap juice (hibiscus flower tea) was sweet and refreshing…

but the rest of the food was mediocre at best: warmed-over frozen vegetables with a mound of stewed onions, fatty chicken and uber-salty fried plantains. I shared a few bites but had no desire for my own plate. Too bad because I was looking forward to trying something new.

Folklife festival food — at least from the West African tent — may have been a fail but let’s give a shout-out to the wide range of healthy choices available. Several tents sold nothing but fresh fruit — watermelon, cherries, grapes and more.

Over in the R&B section, song and dance rocked into the night. I want to have this much spirit when I’m 88!

Many of the performers hold-overs from the 1950s and ’60s and the crowd loved it…

besides this little boy… I think he just wanted his own purple suit. Styling!

I go to the Folklife Festival every year because it’s like traveling without leaving Washington. I may not visit Colombia any time soon…

… but at least I could experience a little bit of the culture secondhand here.

I leave for Nicaragua tomorrow — maybe I should start packing! — but there will be posts lined up from a few fun friends. See you next week with all the news from Central America!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. July 4, 2011 9:15 am

    Have a wonderful trip!!

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