You could hear the music long before you reached Glen Echo Park, where Washington, D.C., area residents were celebrating the arts on a sunny weekend day.
Music, dancing, storytelling and crafts were just a few of the activities at the 37th annual Glen Echo Folk Festival, which showcased the diverse traditions and cultures that make up the Washington metropolitan area.
Something for everyone
Musicians offered a variety of folk music while visitors of all ages sang or clapped along. A few couples danced to the beat along the park’s many pathways.
Six-year-old Benjamin Pardo was curious about the mushrooms that potter Raymond Paul Mihm was creating out of clay. He showed off his knowledge about mushrooms by asking the artist if the hand-made objects were poisonous, and even compared them to some popular cartoon characters.
“They look like Smurfs,” he called out. “They all look different.”
There were also handmade soaps, handcrafted instruments, and clay flowers that looked uncannily like the real things.
Glen Echo Park is an arts and cultural center located in Glen Echo, Maryland. It was developed in 1891 as a National Chautauqua Assembly, then a popular adult education movement in the United States that emphasized the sciences, arts, languages and literature.
By the early 1900s, the site had become Glen Echo Amusement Park, featuring rides and attractions. The National Park Service took over Glen Echo in 1971, and has carried on the original mission to welcome different arts and cultures. The park hosts various arts and dance programs for children and adults throughout the year.
Bringing Washington its own music
The annual folk festival -- which represents at least 25 countries every year -- is just one of many events coordinated by the Folklore Society of Greater Washington. Mia Gardiner is one of its three founders.
“When Debbie Hutton, Jonathan Eberhart and I thought of the idea of having a traditional music festival that featured only performers who lived in the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Area (which includes Northern Virginia and suburban Maryland), the purpose was to present and share the incredible amount of wonderful traditional music that could be found among our 'neighbors' who come from all over the world and are living in the D.C. metropolitan area,” she said. “Our theme was ‘Bringing Washington Its Own Music.’”
“The concept, philosophy, and performance content of the festival, as well as the ‘lay of the land’, fit the Chautauqua concept of presenting the arts in the park perfectly then, and now,” she added.
Festival organizer Dwain Winters agrees.
“Because Washington is both the nation’s capital and the world’s capital, we’re blessed with having these people from all over the country, and all over the world, to bring with them their cultural traditions and perform them for us.”
In addition to arts and entertainment, the park offers other attractions as well.
Six-year old Sophia Panchal enjoyed riding the historic 97-year-old Dentzel carousel, and cooled off with a refreshing Sno-cone afterwards. “It was good,” she proclaimed, as she happily slurped her cherry-flavored treat.
Visitors like Sophia have enjoyed what Glen Echo Park has had to offer for the past 120 years.