Things to Do

Folklife Festival Fun No Matter What the Weather

One second it’s pouring, the next it’s unbearably hot—and those of us less than thrilled with the indecisive weather gods are staying inside. But there’s a good reason to venture out this weekend and next: the Smithsonian’s ten-day Folklife Festival on the Mall, rife with (free!) options for both soggy and stifling days. This year’s featured regions are the Mekong River, Northern Ireland, and, in honor of Jamestown’s 400th anniversary, Virginia. Read below for our tips on what to see in all weather and pictures of the activities.
If it’s a scorcher:
• Stop by the Irish-sheep-dog demonstrations, at the Mall’s Capitol end, or the wood-crafts tent in Virginia Roots section.
• Watch Tony Stevenson—a craftsman from Kent, England, and rocking-horse maker to the queen—hand-chisel oak planks into shapely haunches and hooves.
• Cool off with shredded-papaya salad and a Thai beer under the Mekong River food marquee.
• Visit the Irish-linen tent to stock up on summer wedding gifts.

If it’s rainy:
• Wait for clouds to clear in Northern Ireland’s Lough Erne Inn, where you can wash down shepherd’s pie with a Guinness or an Northern Irish soda.
• Listen to Cambodian chanting at the Mekong River’s New Moon Stage or try on traditional—and dry—garb at the Family Learning Sala.
• In the Virginia section, admire the craftsmanship in the Quilt Stories tent, where the quilters are friendly and the Virginia peanuts complimentary.

If you’re a night owl:
• The festival shutters its food and crafts tents at 5:30, but evening concerts and dance performances gear up at 6 most evenings. This weekend, hear contemporary bagpipe ballads and old-time Virginia blues, among other entertainment. For the full evening schedule, go here.

All tents will shut down temporarily if there’s thunder. The festival runs this weekend through July 1, then again from July 4 through 8, 11 am to 5:30 pm. Metro: Smithsonian.

Mekong basket-weaving.
English craftsman Tony Stevenson whittles away at a rocking-horse form.
Shredded green papaya, a Vietnamese specialty.