I’m back from the annual whirl of Smithsonian Folklife Festival planning, execution, and clean-up. This year was the 50th anniversary of the Festival, and amazingly my 30th anniversary of working on it! Thirty years of sweat, sometimes blood, and sometimes tears but mostly a connection to one of the most people-centric bonding experiences that was ever invented. Staff (full time and temporary), interns, volunteers, participants, presenters and of course visitors – all pulling together to communicate across cultures, geographic divides, colors, religions, ages, points of view.
What-all did I do this year? In the planning phase, I worked with staff from the Circus Arts Conservatory and the University of South Florida to plan the Circus Science family area (read about that in my work blog about this partnership). This was a huge undertaking, which I know the CAC/USF people appreciated but not sure anyone other than my amazing interns really understood fully… scores of emails, long phone conversations, and drafts of activities and copying, cutting, gathering supplies over hundreds of “people” hours. It was all worth while in the end, as thousands of “children of all ages” seemed to enjoy the area, and even to learn something!
I also presented in the Cookhouse foodways area of Circus Science. I formed a great rapport with Chef Ray Slizewski, who cooked for six years for the Big Apple Circus and has great stories. During the preparation of everything from pancakes to a cabbage an polish sausage skillet dish, we explored his experiences and had a lot of laughs.
And, then, the Main Attraction – the 50th Anniversary Reunion Weekend! Tons of previous Festival workers, two days of discussions about the past, present and future of the event, two parties, a lot of running around and keeping people informed and happy. A fit 30th celebration for me, in my natural Festival element of meeting, greeting, solving problems, laughing, communicating and having a general blast, shared with my colleague Arlene and great helpers who always seem willing to do anything asked of them.
No matter what the Festival, and my involvement in it, becomes in the future, it has been a defining part of my existence for almost half of my lifetime. I have helped in my own way to shape it, improve it, keep it “up with the times,” use it as a training ground for the next generation, and generally keep it thriving. And I will as long as I am able to continue to do so.
Long live the Festival, the “best adult summer camp” ever. Even when it is a “trial by fire” (literally this year, but that’s another story), it is marvelous, miraculous and more than a little magical.